Four people died after a small migrant boat traveling from France to the British coast capsized in the frozen waters of the English Channel early Wednesday, reports said.
Lifeboats, helicopters, and rescue teams working with the French and British navies responded to the incident. The British government said it was a “small migrant boat in distress.”
Migration to the UK organized by human-trafficking gangs has become an issue of high priority for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government.
A British government spokesman said in a statement authorities were alerted to an incident in the Channel at 0305 (GMT).
After a search and rescue operation led by HM Coastguard, four people were confirmed dead. The statement also said further investigation into the incident is underway.
British Home Secretary Suella Braverman told parliament the tragic incident was a reminder that dangerous journeys across the Channel must end.
Earlier on Wednesday, Braverman tweeted she was aware of the incident and was waiting for more information. “My heartfelt thoughts are with all those involved.”
The incident took place in icy conditions off the coast of Kent, where many small boats carrying asylum seekers arrive from France.
The LBC radio station reported 43 people were rescued in the incident.
At least 27 people died trying to cross the sea in an inflatable boat in November 2021, in the worst recorded incident of its kind in the Channel.
Thousands of migrants are using small boats to claim asylum in Britain in the hope of crossing the Channel. This has put pressure on the government to stem the flow.
A record 44,000 people have entered the UK this year after making the perilous journey across the busy waterway in small boats.
More than 40,000 people from countries including Afghanistan, Iraq and Albania have crossed one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes in dinghies and boats from northern France so far this year.
Braverman, however, defended the government’s policies, describing the increasing number of migrants arriving via the Channel as “an invasion on our southern coast.”
Prime Minister Sunak has said the migrant crisis is a “serious and escalating problem.” He has acknowledged that “not enough” asylum claims are being processed.
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