Several people have died while trying to cross the Channel to Britain in an inflatable dinghy, French authorities have said.
An interior ministry official told French news agencies that the national marine services had recovered “several bodies, including five people who had died and five people who were unconscious, according to initial estimations”.
The French interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, is travelling to Calais. He tweeted his “strong emotion” at the capsizing and said he could not emphasise strongly enough “the criminal nature of the traffickers who organise these crossings”.
Despite the worsening winter weather conditions, attempts are continuing by refugees and migrants to make the perilous crossing to Kent by coast. French officials have been concerned in recent months that the Channel must not become another place – like the Mediterranean – where people drown as they risk their lives on makeshift boats.
Earlier this month, an estimated 1,185 people crossed the Channel by boat in one day, a record for crossings in a single day.
Three people were feared drowned in the busy sea lane earlier this month.
More than 23,000 people have made the journey across the Channel to the UK by boat so far this year, a marked increase on the 8,400 in 2020. The British government has accused France of failing to control the situation.
The French interior ministry says it is honouring its engagements to prevent the departures of small boats, with more than 600 police and gendarmes stationed on the north coast every day, 24 hours a day.
France says it has increased its success rate in stopping the crossings, with 62.5% of departures being stopped in 2021, up from about 50% last year.