Two children among four dead after migrant boat sinks off French coast

Two children, aged five and eight, are among four people who have died after a migrant boat sank off the coast of France.

The deaths of the children as well as a man and a woman were confirmed by the regional administration for the Nord region.

Fifteen migrants have been saved so far, according to the administration, which stressed the death roll may climb as search and rescue efforts continue.

Two children among four dead after migrant boat sinks off French coast

Eight of those rescued suffered hypothermia and two were in cardiac arrest, local firemen said.

Sky News understands the boat got into difficulty in rough weather and strong winds when it was in French waters about 2km from the French coast on Tuesday morning.

Around 19 or 20 people were on board the boat in an attempt to get to the UK and at least one other person still feared missing.

French authorities and a Belgian helicopter launched the rescue after the migrant boat was reported in distress off the coast of Dunkirk, according to the regional French maritime agency.

Those officials had earlier said 18 people were rescued and were receiving treatment in hospitals in Calais and Dunkirk.

The public prosecutor of Dunkirk is investigating the cause of the sinking, which is believed to have caused the highest death toll from a single crossing in the current migrant crisis.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson released a statement saying his thoughts and prayers are with the victim’s families.

He said the UK had offered French authorities “every support” in their investigation, adding: “We will do all we can to crack down on the ruthless gangs who prey on vulnerable people by facilitating these dangerous journeys.”

Britain’s UK’s Clandestine Channel Threat Commander Dan O’Mahoney echoed the condolences and offer of help to French rescuers.

“Just after 10am… we were made aware of an ongoing search and rescue incident involving a migrant vessel in distress just off the coast of France in very poor weather conditions,” Mr O’Mahoney said.

“Today’s tragic events just seek to underline the risks that facilitators are prepared to go to to risk migrants’ lives for profits and strengthens our resolve to go after them and bring them to justice.”

Two children among four dead after migrant boat sinks off French coast

Mr O’Mahoney said he wants to “completely end the viability of this route” as crossings have climbed to an “unacceptably high number” but that the issue is “very complex”.

In a statement, Home Secretary Priti Patel said she is “truly saddened to learn of the tragic loss of life in French waters this morning” and that her thoughts and prayers are with the victim’s loved ones.

“This tragic news highlights the dangers that come with crossing the channel and I will do everything I can to stop callous criminals exploiting vulnerable people.”

Such crossings have become more common recently, but confirmed deaths are rare.

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Two children among four dead after migrant boat sinks off French coast

More than 7,000 migrants have made it across the English Channel to the UK – up from 1,800 the previous year.

Government figures show four people have died making the journey in 2019 and four so far this year, including a body found on a beach near Calais on 18 October.

In August, Sudanese man Abdulfatah Hamdallah reportedly died while trying to row to the UK.

Ms Patel has called for boats to be intercepted at sea and turned back towards France to make crossings “unviable”.

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Two children among four dead after migrant boat sinks off French coast

But the United Nations’ Refugee Agency has expressed concern about the method.

Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds tweeted that the sinking is “a heart-breaking reminder of the human cost of this crisis,” he said.

Meanwhile Care4Calais founder Clare Moseley said the refugee community in Calais is “utterly devastated” about the latest deaths.

“It is cruel and horrifying that this time, young children are among the victims,” she said.

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“This unnecessary loss of life has to stop. No-one should ever feel they have to get into a fragile craft and risk their lives crossing the Channel, least of all vulnerable children.”

Despite mobolising all of France’s resources, the country’s citizenship minister Marlene Schiappa said, “the losses are heavy and the final toll is still uncertain”.

Bertrand Ringot, the mayor of Gravelines, south-west of Dunkirk, said on Twitter that he raised his concerns to the French Government last month about the theft of boats and the outbreak of crossings. He said he will call for more security at and near the port as the Brexit transition nears an end.

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