At least 27 migrants died Wednesday in the sinking off Calais, out of the 34 who were present in the boat. Two were rescued and one is still missing.
Five smugglers suspected of being “directly linked” to the shipwreck were arrested, said Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin. “I mean here that the people primarily responsible for this despicable situation are the smugglers”, added the minister in Calais. He also called for a “very tough coordinated international response” in front of this drama “that affects us all”.
“Around 2:00 p.m., a fisherman reported the discovery of about fifteen bodies floating off Calais. A French Navy vessel recovered several bodies, including five dead and five unconscious, according to a provisional report“, indicated the Ministry of the Interior in the early evening.
The Dunkirk prosecutor’s office announced to AFP the opening of an investigation for “assistance with entry to irregular stay in an organized group” and “aggravated manslaughter“The drama unfolded on a”long boat“, a fragile inflatable boat, whose flexible bottom tends to fold up when it takes on water and is overloaded, we learned from the rescuers. The use of these particularly dangerous and poor quality boats is more and more frequent since this summer.
The deadliest shipwreck on the English Channel
This drama, described as “tragedy“by the French Prime Minister Jean Castex, is the deadliest since the soaring in 2018 of the migratory crossings of the Channel, in the face of the increasing lockdown of the port of Calais and Eurotunnel used until then by migrants trying to join the England.
“My thoughts are with the many missing and injured, victims of criminal smugglers who exploit their distress and misery“, added Jean Castex in a message posted on Twitter, ensuring to follow”the situation in real time“.
“We are all moved by this tragedy which strikes everyone in their privacy and in their values”, also declares Emmanuel Macron, expressing his “compassion” and “France’s unconditional support” to the families of the victims.
►►► “Tragic” shipwreck of migrants in Calais: “France will not let the Channel become a cemetery”
He calls into question the “networks of smugglers who, by exploiting misery and distress, endanger human lives and ultimately decimate families”.
Before this sinking, the death toll since the beginning of the year stood at three dead and four missing. In 2020, six people were killed and three others were missing. Four deaths were recorded in 2019.
Strong reaction from both sides of the Channel
The Head of State, Emmanuel Macron, called for an emergency meeting of European countries affected by the crisis
migration and called for the “immediate strengthening” of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex).
Prime Minister Jean Castex will hold an interministerial meeting on this issue at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday with the Interior Ministers, Gérald Darmanin, Justice, Éric Dupond-Moretti, Armies, Florence Parly, de la Mer, Annick Girardin, Transport , Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, and the Secretary of State for Europe, Clément Beaune, according to his services.
In London, where he chaired during the day a crisis meeting on illegal crossings in the Channel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “horrified” by this sinking, illustrating, according to him, the need to strengthen measures to fight against groups of “smugglers” of migrants.