By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “shocked, appalled and deeply saddened” after at least 30 people died when their boat sank in the Channel.
The deadliest migration disaster on the intensively-used route comes while thousands of people fleeing war, persecution, and poverty are trying to reach Western European nations.
Johnson said he would “leave no stone unturned to demolish human trafficking gangs.” He spoke while on Wednesday, a rescue operation began after a fisherman sounded the alarm, the French coastguard said. There were signs that help arrived too late for many.
Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart told France’s BFM television the death toll now stood at 27 minutes after another mayor put the tally at 24.
Authorities estimated there had been about 30 people on the dinghy before it capsized.
The French interior ministry said several victims were recovered unconscious from the water. Police then said in a statement that “over 20” people had died.
HELICOPTERS, BOAT SEARCH
Three helicopters and three boats have been deployed to take part in the search, local authorities said.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who headed to the scene, expressed outrage that “many people” had died in the incident.
He said on social media the tragedy showed “the criminal nature of the smugglers who organize these crossings cannot be condemned enough.”
“The disaster in the Channel is a tragedy,” added Prime Minister Jean Castex. “My thoughts are with the many missing and injured, victims of criminal smugglers who exploit their distress and misery,” he said in a statement.
The tragedy left an impact on fishers who watched the tragedy unfold. One of them, Nicolas Margolle, told the media he saw two small dinghies Wednesday, one with people and another empty.
He said another fisherman had called rescue services after seeing an empty dinghy and 15 people floating motionless nearby, either unconscious or dead.
MORE DINGHIES SEEN
He confirmed there were more dinghies on Wednesday because the weather was good. “But it’s cold,” Margolle added.
The victims are among the 31,500 people who have tried to leave for Britain since the start of the year, French authorities said.
Some 7,800 people have been rescued at sea so far, figures that doubled since August, according to official estimates.
Seven people were earlier confirmed dead or missing and feared drowned after various in the Channel this year, officials said.
In Britain, the ruling right-wing Conservative party of Prime Minister Boris Johnson is coming under intense pressure, including its supporters, to reduce the crossings.
French police said this week they detained 15 suspected members of an international migrant smuggling syndicate that helped people illegally cross the Channel to Britain.
BROAD SMUGGLERS NETWORK
The crime gang of Iraqi Kurds, Romanians, Pakistanis, and Vietnamese reportedly helped a minimum of 250 people per month cross to England. They used small boats that transported up to 60 migrants at a time.
Passage to England would cost a migrant €6,000 ($6,800), and the smugglers racked up some €3 million ($3.4 million) in total profits, according to investigators.
British authorities say more than 25,000 people have arrived illegally this year, already triple the figure recorded in 2020.
Besides quarreling over how to tackle migration, the French and British governments also fight about fishing rights.
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