UK police arrest three over deaths of five people in English Channel

Deaths occurred when a small overcrowded boat carrying 112 people set out to cross the Channel and panic took hold.

A lifeboat carrying people, believed to be migrants, navigates as seen from the Port of Dover, the United Kingdom [Toby Melville/Reuters]Published On 24 Apr 202424 Apr 2024

British police say they have arrested three men over the deaths of five people including a child who died attempting to cross the English Channel from France.

The deaths occurred when a small overcrowded boat carrying 112 people set out to cross one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and panic took hold among the passengers not far from the shore.

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Rescuers picked up about 50 people, with four taken to hospital, but others stayed on the boat, determined to get to Britain.

Three men, two Sudanese nationals aged 22 and 19, and a South Sudan national aged 22, were detained on Tuesday night on suspicion of “facilitating illegal immigration and entering the UK illegally”, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said.

“This tragic incident once again demonstrates the threat to life posed by these crossings and brings into focus why it is so important to target the criminal gangs involved in organising them,” said NCA Deputy Director of Investigations Craig Turner.

“We will do all we can with partners in the UK and France to secure evidence, identify those responsible for this event, and bring them to justice.”

French police are also investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident, alongside their British counterparts, the NCA said.

It said 55 people who were believed to have been on board the boat that arrived in Britain had also been identified.

More than 6,000 people have arrived in the UK this year via small, overloaded boats – usually flimsy inflatable dinghies – that risk being lashed by the waves as they try to reach British shores.

The deadly crossing on Tuesday took place just hours after Parliament passed a bill paving the way for asylum seekers who arrive in Britain without permission to be deported to Rwanda.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak argues the policy will deter people from making the dangerous cross-Channel journey.

Critics say the plan to deport people to Rwanda rather than handle asylum seekers at home is inhumane, citing concerns about the East African country’s own human rights record and the risk that asylum seekers may be sent back to countries where they would be in danger.

More than 120,000 people – many fleeing wars and poverty in Africa, the Middle East and Asia – have reached the UK since 2018 by crossing the English Channel in small boats on journeys organised by people-smuggling gangs.

Last year, 29,437 asylum seekers made the crossing with one in five of them from Afghanistan, according to the Refugee Council.

Source: News Agencies