At least 5 people die trying to cross the Channel, including a little girl

At least five people, including a young girl, died at sea off the coast of northern France on Tuesday during an attempt to cross the Channel, French authorities said, as governments on both sides of the waterway struggle to dissuade the migrants from making the journey. dangerous trip to Great Britain.

According to French authorities, the deceased were on board a heavily overloaded dinghy with more than 100 people. The boat was one of several vessels spotted by the French coast guard near the town of Wimereux on Tuesday morning.

The deaths came just hours after Britain's Parliament passed highly controversial legislation to allow the deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda, a measure that British authorities have presented as a way to dissuade people from attempting the dangerous Channel crossing.

Jacques Billant, prefect of the Pas-de-Calais region, told reporters in Wimereux that several people had fallen from the boat. The coast guard sent several boats to help, including semi-rigid inflatable boats and a tugboat, and found several people on board unconscious and in critical condition.

Six people were brought to the ground, but emergency workers were unable to resuscitate five of them, Billant said. The exact circumstances of the death and the identities of those involved were not immediately clear.

Jean-Luc Dubaele, mayor of Wimereux, said one of the victims was a girl under 10 years old. Five people died in January near the same beach while trying to cross the freezing waters of the English Channel.

“It's hard to accept,” Mr. Dubaele he told French news channel BFMTV.

Mr Billant said nearly 50 other people on the boat had been brought ashore and that four had been taken to hospital with minor injuries.

“Despite the complex and delicate situation, 57 people who were still on the dinghy remained on board and did not want to be rescued,” Billant said. He added that the group managed to restart the boat's engine and continued their journey to Britain.

In Britain, human rights activists and immigration experts have expressed deep skepticism towards the law passed by Parliament on Monday evening. It has been supported by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Conservative government as a way to stop people reaching British shores in small boats, even though these people represent only a small proportion of asylum seekers arriving in the country and an even smaller number of migrants. the total number of migrants in Great Britain.

Last year almost 36,000 people attempted to reach British shores by crossing the Channel. This was stated in a report by the French maritime authorities.

One of the worst migrant-related tragedies in the canal occurred in 2021, when 27 people died after their boat capsized. Many people trying to reach Britain have fled the Middle East or Africa, clustering in small makeshift camps on the coast of northern France before attempting the crossing in small dinghies.

British and French authorities have made numerous agreements in recent years in an attempt to limit the number of crossings. Last year, the two countries agreed that Britain would pay France more than $600 million over three years to help pay for drones, a new detention center and hundreds of additional police officers to patrol beaches .

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