27 migrants dead as boat capsizes off French coast

Search and rescue operation underway; Macron vows to not let Channel sea become cemetery

2021-11-25 00:18:10

PARIS

At least 27 migrants are reported dead in a boat sinking incident off the French coast of Calais on Wednesday, while attempting to reach the United Kingdom. 

President Emmanuel vowed to not "let the Channel become a cemetery" while calling for "the immediate reinforcement" of European border and coast guard agency Frontex and an "emergency" meeting of the EU, BFMTV news reported.

The incident was brought to attention by a fishing vessel which located several bodies floating in the sea. 

Maritime prefecture of the Channel and the North Sea announced a search and rescue operation was currently underway in the strait of Pas- de -Calais for possible survivors or evacuating the dead. However, officials noted that chances of survivors were bleak in the freezing water .

The top leadership of the French government deplored the incident and held the human traffickers responsible for the "tragedy". Prime minister Jean Castex said the dead were the "victims of the criminal smugglers who exploited their distress and misery.

Interior minister Gerald Darmanin rushed to the Calais in northern France, said he was filled with "strong emotions" on the many deaths. "We cannot say enough about the criminal nature of the smugglers who organize these crossings," he said on Twitter.

The deaths come days after France and Britain struck an agreement to prevent illegal crossings of the migrants in small boats from the French coast. In a crackdown against smugglers network, around 50 people suspected to be involved in organizing crossings were arrested in Calais and Dunkirk.