Migrant dies in English Channel boat sinking

Migrants crossings have increased this summer - often using a boat like this, found in July. Credit: PA

A migrant airlifted to hospital from the English Channel after a boat carrying around 40 people began to sink has died.

French media initially reported the death of the male, who was taken to Calais by helicopter earlier on Thursday, and the Home Office has since confirmed the reports.

The boat is believed to have begun taking on water as it headed for the UK on Thursday morning.

The rescue operation, involving French and Belgian air and sea units, is ongoing, authorities in France say.

Others are thought to have succeeded in reaching British shores on Thursday, with reports of a beach landing in Kent.

Searches started at around 10am after a cargo ship reported that a boat carrying around 40 people was in difficulty, with some people overboard, off the coast of Dunkirk.

A view of one of two areas now being used at a warehouse facility in Dover, Kent, for boats used by people thought to be migrants. Credit: PA

An unconscious person taken aboard the cargo ship’s lifeboat and transferred on to a French Navy vessel was later airlifted to hospital in Calais.

He was believed to have suffered cardio-respiratory arrest and was evacuated aboard a Belgian Air Force helicopter, French authorities say.

The Home Office’s Clandestine Channel Threat Commander Dan O’Mahoney said: “This loss of life is a tragedy and we are providing support to our French counterparts who are leading the response.

“This underlines the terrible dangers of small boat crossings and why we must work together with the French to prevent callous criminals exploiting vulnerable people.”

Several others were also hoisted aboard the helicopter as the migrant boat was sinking, while more were rescued by nearby fishing boats.

They were all transferred on to the French Navy’s Flamant patrol boat, which headed for the port of Dunkirk.

Last month, a group onboard one small dinghy explained to ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers where they have come from and how many are making the journey

Search and rescue operations remain under way in the Dover Strait, with a French Navy helicopter continuing to scour the area.

Lisa Doyle, director of advocacy and engagement at the Refugee Council, said: “This tragic loss of life is a sobering reminder that the odds are stacked against ordinary men, women and children, who are desperately struggling for safety and protection.

“Every day, people are forced to flee their home through no fault of their own. We can do more to make the journey safer.”

She urged the government to “change course” and create and commit to safe routes to asylum.

Following days of bad weather in the Dover Strait, lighter conditions on Thursday have seen a flurry of crossing attempts.

The latest bids to reach the UK come after French authorities intercepted at least 108 people trying to cross the Channel on Wednesday, with one person having to be airlifted to hospital in Dunkirk.

Better weather conditions on Thursday have led to a series of attempts to cross the English Channel Credit: PA

The dangerous sea journey from France – made by more than 10,000 people including children so far in 2021 – has claimed many lives in the past.

Among them were Rasoul Iran-Nejad and his wife Shiva Mohammad Panahi, who died along with their three children when their boat capsized on October 27, 2020.

Their 15-month-old son Artin was reported missing following the tragedy and it was not until June this year that police confirmed a body found on the Norwegian coast was that of the young boy.

Data shows the tally for successful crossings this year now stands at more than 10,700 people, despite the dangers involved in the journey.

Crossings in 2021 eclipsed last year’s annual total of 8,417 in July.