Fisherman captures 'horrific' moment crew saves people from capsized migrant boat in English Channel

This video contains distressing images

Dramatic footage shows panicked people being hauled onto a fishing vessel

A fisherman has filmed the moment he rescued a group of migrants whose "inflatable" boat capsized in the English Channel.

Four people died on Wednesday morning in an incident that sparked a major rescue mission. The operation involved a fishing boat, the Royal Navy, French navy, Coastguard and RNLI lifeboats.

In footage shared with ITV News, a fishing crew off the Kent coast can be seen hauling panicked people over the side of the boat.

The owner of the crew's vessel, Ben Squire, said he was awakened in the early hours of the morning by a fisherman who called to tell him he could see a boat sinking.

Forensic tents erected at the RNLI station at the Port of Dover after a large search and rescue operation in the Channel off the Kent coast Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA

"They were fishing mid-Channel, halfway between England and France, and a rigid inflatable boat with people on board, migrants, was crossing and was sinking very, very near to where he was fishing," Mr Squire said.

"It looks to be that the bottom of the rigid inflatable boat with the migrants on had fallen away - so you had all these people in the water, in cold conditions."

In the footage, the crew can be seen hauling distressed people over the side of the boat.

Mr Squire told ITV News that the crew hauled 31 "freezing cold, panicking, really scared" people on board their scallop fishing vessel.

ITV News correspondent Rebecca Barry reports on the latest migrant tragedy to unfold in the English Channel

This video contains distressing images

"They got them in the hot shower, warmed them up, the crews got their own clothes on them, fed them with their food," he said.

On Wednesday afternoon, Suella Braverman expressed her sympathies and paid tribute to those working on the search and rescue operation.

In a statement in the Commons, the home secretary said proposed legislation to deter Channel crossings "will save lives", adding the "largest-ever small boats deal with France" would help to tackle future crossings as she expressed her sadness at the deaths and thanked those who

Ms Braverman said: "This morning’s tragedy, like the loss of 27 people on one November day last year, is the most sobering reminder possible of why we have to end these crossings."

She continued: "This is an ongoing search-and-rescue incident but I can confirm at the time of making this statement tragically there have been four fatalities.

"It would be inappropriate for me to go into further detail at this time. There is a multi-agency response to this terrible tragedy."

But a trade union has hit out at the home secretary and called for her to "resign in disgrace".

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The Public and Commercial Services union said its members in the Border Force and Coastguards were at the sharp end of dealing with such distressing incidents.

PCS official Paul O’Connor said: "Today’s tragedy, coming just over 12 months after 32 people tragically lost their lives in the Channel, was entirely avoidable.

"The Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, says her heartfelt thoughts are with all those involved.

"Those words ring utterly hollow when she has spent her time as Home Secretary vilifying and demonising the very people she now feigns sympathy with."

Alongside Prime Minister Rishi Sunak a number of MPs offered their condolences to the families of those who had lost their lives during the incident.

The PM opened PMQs by expressing his "sorrow" at the "capsizing of a small boat" in the English Channel, telling MPs there had been a "tragic loss of human life".

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer added: "Our prayers go out to those who capsized in the freezing waters of the Channel last night. It’s a reminder that the criminal gangs running those routes put the lives of the desperate at risk and profit from their misery. They must be broken up and brought to justice."

'It's the most dangerous piece of water in the world practically bar none' - Sir Roger Gale MP explained to ITV News his thoughts on the latest migrant tragedy in the Channel

The tragedy off the Kent coast came a day after Mr Sunak unveiled a raft of new measures in a bid to curb migrant Channel crossings as he told MPs: "We have to stop the boats."

Sir Roger Gale, the MP for North Thanet in Kent, told ITV News he "fears" there will be more deaths across the Channel, saying those who take part in human-trafficking "could not give a damn about human life".

"It's astonishing in a way that there haven't been more [deaths] already.

"It's the most dangerous piece of water in the world practically bar none, one of the busiest sea lanes in the world, hellishly dangerous, the weather is awful.

"It's bitterly cold at this time of year, chances of survival in the water are about a minute and a half, that's how serious it is.

"And the people who are doing this, the people who are trafficking in human misery could not give a damn about human life. All they're concerned with is making money."

He added there is not a "silver bullet" to solve the situation, but in the interests of "protecting human life" solutions must be found.