By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
LONDON (Worthy News) – At least four people died Wednesday after a small boat loaded with migrants heading for British shores from France capsized in the freezing waters of the English Channel, the British government said.
A person close to the situation said 43 people had been saved, with more than 30 of them rescued from the water. Lifeboats, helicopters, and rescue teams working with the French and British navies responded to the incident.
The tragedy happened as immigration to Britain organized by people-trafficking criminal gangs has become in priority issue for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government.
Sunak called it a “tragic loss of human life,” just as he tried to tighten rules to prevent record numbers of migrants from attempting the crossing.
“At 0305 (local time), authorities were alerted to an incident in the Channel concerning a migrant small boat in distress,” a government spokesperson added.
“After a coordinated search and rescue operation led by HM Coastguard, it is with regret that there have been four confirmed deaths as a result of this incident.”
An investigation was underway, the spokesperson added.
Migrants have been intercepted regularly in the Channel in recent years, using small boats ill-suited for trips on the open sea. At least 27 people drowned while attempting to cross the Channel in a dinghy on November 24 last year.
The latest accident comes as tens of thousands of migrants have been trying to reach Britain, which recently separated from the European Union.
Many regularly attempt to cross the Channel from northern France to southern England in small boats, a trend that has grown hugely in recent years.
A record more than 43,000 migrants have made the journey across the Channel so far this year, authorities said. That has added to tensions between London and Paris about preventative measures.
Wednesday’s incident came the day after Sunak announced a new deal with Albania to stem the flow of migrants crossing the Channel from mainland Europe. A third of all those arriving in British waters this year — almost 13,000 — have been Albanian.
He explained that, under the agreement, Albanians arriving by boat across the Channel would be immediately returned to their home country.
Freezing weather conditions in northern Europe and windy conditions on the Channel have recently deterred crossings. But a drop in the wind appears to have prompted the latest attempt, officials said.
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