Six people have died and around 50 rescued after a boat carrying migrants sank in the Channel, French authorities have said.
Two British ships and several French vessels have been involved in a search and rescue operation, France’s Maritime Prefecture of the Channel and the North Sea said.
Information was received from a patrol boat early on Saturday that a migrant boat was sinking off Sangatte, according to a statement.
Six people were recovered in a serious condition, one of whom was then taken by helicopter to Calais hospital and declared dead, the prefecture said.
An updated statement said the other five, who were taken in by boat, also died.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman is expected to chair a meeting with Border Force officials later on Saturday morning.
A UK Government spokesperson said: “We are aware of an incident in the Channel. HM Coastguard are working on a co-ordinated response and further information will be provided in due course.”
Dover Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) crew with rescue teams from Folkestone and Langdon Bay and South East Coast Ambulance have also been sent to respond, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said.
The RNLI said the crew set off just before 4am.
An investigation has also been opened by the Boulogne prosecutor’s office.
It comes after 755 people crossed the English Channel in small boats on Thursday, the highest daily number so far this year, confirming the total since 2018 has passed 100,000.
Since current records began on January 1 2018, 100,715 migrants have arrived in the UK after making the journey, according to analysis of Government data by the PA news agency.
Thursday’s figures were recorded as another major search and rescue operation was launched after 17 migrants went overboard and were pulled from the water.
The Home Office said they were all taken ashore for medical checks.
Shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said the latest incident was an “appalling, deeply shocking tragedy”.
“We must stop these crossings and defeat the criminal people smugglers.
“There can be no more headline-chasing gimmicks or madcap schemes that just make everything worse,” he wrote on Twitter.
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said the incident “underscores the need for meaningful action” to reduce dangerous crossings, and urged the Government to focus on creating an “orderly and humane asylum system”.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life in today’s sinking of a boat in the English Channel. Our hearts go out to the victims, survivors, and their loved ones. We also thank the rescuers who helped save many lives under harrowing circumstances,” he said.
He accused the Government of “focusing on passing expensive and unworkable legislation and shutting down existing safe ways to get to the UK”, adding: “There are constructive alternatives we have set out that would create an orderly and humane asylum system.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub