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Migrants Killed in English Channel When Containership Hits Dingy

migrants killed after containership hits overloaded dingy in English Channel
French rescue boats retrieved the bodies from the English Channel (SNSM file photo)

Published Nov 25, 2021 1:42 PM by The Maritime Executive

French and British authorities are both reporting that they believed an unnamed containership is responsible for the largest migrant accident which claimed many lives in the English Channel. French authorities are reporting between 27 and 31 people died when the inflatable raft they were in sunk with one person still unaccounted for and only two survivors rescued in what is becoming the latest international incident between the countries.

It began to unfold on November 24 after a local fisherman reported seeing bodies in the English Channel. French and British rescue authorities began a search with the French reporting they recovered the bodies which included at least seven women and three children. French rescue authorities had requested the assistance of all vessels in the area in the frantic search while French and British rescue vessels and helicopters also searched the water. They reported that only a few of the individuals appeared to have lifejackets but most succumbed to hypothermia in the water.

Speaking to the two survivors they were able to piece together a report that said the 32-foot inflatable dingy meant to hold a maximum of 10 people had set out from a beach near Dunkirk in poor weather conditions in an attempt to make it across the Channel. The survivors indicated that they were hit by a large ship that caused the dingy to immediately deflate sending everyone into the water. The French authorities were able to recover the dingy and bring it to shore.  

The French prosecutor’s office reported that they were still trying to identify the victims, their ages, and nationalities. They have also begun a full investigation saying that there could be charges including aggravated manslaughter and organized illegal migration. In the hours after the tragedy, French police took into custody five individuals who they said were the ringleaders in a smuggling effort to ferry migrants across the English Channel. French authorities reported the individuals had paid the smugglers as much as $8,000 in hopes of reaching the U.K.

French government officials called it a day of tragedy while French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly spoke about the ongoing problem of migrants. Johnson reportedly repeated his calls for the French to do more to stop the flow with some reports saying Britain has even proposed putting troops on the French beaches. Macron is calling for an increased international effort to prevent the migrants from coming to French while the government says that it has already dramatically increased efforts along the coast in 2021. Media reports said on Thursday there was an increased French presence along the coastline.

Some estimates suggest that the number of migrants attempting the crossing to England has tripled in 2021 with more than 25,000 people attempting the crossing.  French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told reporters that his country has rescued 7,800 people this year alone. He said on Wednesday they prevented about 671 people from attempting the crossing.