12 Aug 2021
A migrant airlifted to hospital from the English Channel after a boat carrying around 40 people began to sink has died.
The Home Office has confirmed the death of the man, who was taken to Calais by helicopter earlier on Thursday.
The boat reportedly started to take on water as it headed for the UK on Thursday morning.
The rescue operation, involving French and Belgian air and maritime units, continued throughout the day, French authorities said.
Others reportedly made it to British shores on Thursday, with reports of a landing on a beach in Kent.
The search began around 10 a.m. after a freighter reported that a boat carrying around 40 people was in difficulty, with a few people overboard, off Dunkirk.
An unconscious person taken aboard the freighter’s lifeboat and transferred to a French Navy ship was then airlifted to Calais hospital.
He would have suffered a cardio-respiratory arrest and would have been evacuated aboard a helicopter of the Belgian Air Force, according to the French authorities.
French media later reported that the individual was deceased, which has since been confirmed by the Home Office’s underground channel threat commander Dan O’Mahoney.
He said: “Today someone sadly died in France following an incident in French waters while attempting to cross the Channel.
“This loss of life is a tragedy and we are supporting our French counterparts who are leading the response.
“It highlights the terrible dangers of small boat crossings and why we must work with the French to prevent callous criminals from exploiting vulnerable people.”
Several others were also hoisted aboard the helicopter as the migrant boat sank, while others were rescued by nearby fishing boats.
They were all transferred to the Flamant patrol vessel of the French Navy, which headed for the port of Dunkirk.
Search and rescue operations remained ongoing in the Strait of Pas de Calais for much of Thursday, with a French Navy helicopter continuing to scour the area.
Nick Thomas-Symonds, Home Secretary for the Labor Party, said: “This is a tragic loss of life and our hearts are with family and friends.
“Conservative ministers must urgently address this situation, strike a meaningful deal with France that stops organized crime gangs from taking advantage of vulnerable people and tackle the factors that drive people to take these incredibly dangerous roads . “
Lisa Doyle, Director of Advocacy and Engagement at the Refugee Council, said: “This tragic loss of life is a sobering reminder that the odds are against ordinary men, women and children, who struggle desperately for safety and protection.
“Every day, people are forced to flee their homes without their being responsible. We can do more to make travel safer.
She urged the government to “change course” and create and commit to creating safe pathways to asylum.
Steve Valdez-Symonds, Director of Refugee and Migrant Rights at Amnesty International UK, said: “We are deeply saddened by this loss of life and our hearts go out to the family and friends who have lost a loved one.
“The Interior Ministry must take this as an urgent wake-up call.
“Priti Patel needs to fundamentally change government policy and ensure that this does not happen again. “
After days of bad weather in the Strait of Pas de Calais, lighter conditions on Thursday saw a flurry of crossing attempts.
The latest offers to reach the UK come after French authorities intercepted at least 108 people attempting to cross the Channel on Wednesday, with one to be airlifted to Dunkirk hospital.
The dangerous sea voyage from France – taken by more than 10,000 people, including children so far in 2021 – has claimed many lives in the past.
Among them were Rasoul Iran-Nejad and his wife Shiva Mohammad Panahi, who died with their three children when their boat capsized on October 27, 2020.
Their 15-month-old son Artin was reported missing in the wake of the tragedy and it was not until June of this year that police confirmed that a body found on the Norwegian coast was that of the young boy.
Data compiled by the PA news agency shows that the number of successful crossings this year now stands at more than 10,700 people, despite the dangers associated with the trip.
Crossings in 2021 eclipsed last year’s annual total of 8,417 in July, according to AP data.