Five migrants die while crossing English Channel hours after UK passes Rwanda deportation bill

Five migrants die while crossing English Channel hours after UK passes Rwanda deportation bill

WIMEREUX: Five migrants, including a seven-year-old girl, died Tuesday trying to cross the Channel from France to Britain, local authorities said, just hours after Britain passed a controversial bill to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The British government has cast its Rwanda plan, which cleared a final hurdle in parliament on Monday to international criticism, as part of measures to deter migrants from making the perilous sea crossing and avert such tragedies.

The latest tragedy at sea off the northern French town of Wimereux brings to 15 the number of migrants who have died so far this year trying to reach English shores, according to an AFP tally.

That is already more than the 12 migrants killed in the whole of last year while making the crossing to seek a better future in Britain, according to official figures.

A seven-year-old girl, three men and a woman were killed on Tuesday in the latest accident in Wimereux, local government official Jacques Billant said.

The boat carrying 112 people, including Syrians and Iraqis, set off before dawn but the engine stopped just a few hundred metres from the beach and several people fell into the cold sea water, he said.

Rescue services rushed to help, but failed to resuscitate five people on the sand, Billant said.

Around 50 migrants were rescued and brought to the nearby resort town of Boulogne-sur-Mer.

But the others refused to disembark and chose to try again to cross the busy shipping lane, with the French navy accompanying them to make sure they did not capsize, Billant said.

On Tuesday morning, police had cordoned off the beach, an AFP journalist said.

Two ambulance helicopters were stationed nearby.

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought into Dover, Kent, by the Border Force, on Tuesday, April 23, 2024. 

British govt watchdog says UK's Rwanda deportation plan could cost nearly 500 million pounds

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's government has been under mounting pressure to stem the number of Channel crossings, particularly following a promise of a tougher approach to immigration after the United Kingdom left the European Union.

"These tragedies have to stop. I will not accept a status quo which costs so many lives," UK interior minister James Cleverly said on X.

"This government is doing everything we can to end this trade, stop the boats and ultimately break the business model of the evil people smuggling gangs, so they no longer put lives at risk."

He spoke after controversial UK government plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda cleared a final hurdle in parliament on Monday.

The United Nations and Europe's highest rights body have urged Britain to scrap the plan.

Tuesday's tragedy is just the latest in a string of migrant deaths.

A seven-year-old Iraqi girl named Rola drowned on March 3 in the capsizing of an overcrowded migrant boat in the Aa canal, around 30 kilometres (19 miles) inland from France's northern coast. Her parents and brothers survived.

People attempting to reach Britain have increasingly been boarding boats on inland waterways to avoid stepped-up patrols on the French coast.

In late February, a 22-year-old Turkish man died and two more people went missing in the Channel off Calais.

In January, five people including a 14-year-old Syrian, died in Wimereux as they waded through chilly seawater to reach a boat off the coast.

British officials processed 5,373 migrants landing on the shores of southeast England in the first three months of this year after crossing the Channel in small vessels, the British interior ministry says.