Migrants drown in English Channel hours after UK passes Rwanda policy

A Tunisian national coast guard helps migrants to get off a rescue boat in Jbeniana, Safx, Tunisia April 23, 2022.
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Five migrants died in an attempt to cross the English Channel from France to Britain in an overcrowded small boat yesterday, hours after Britain passed a Bill to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda in a move to deter the dangerous journeys.

The deaths occurred when a boat carrying 112 people set out to cross one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and panic took hold among the passengers not far from the shore.

Rescuers picked up 49 people, with four taken to hospital, but others stayed on the boat, determined to get to Britain.

The French coastguard was still searching for any survivors.

“A tragedy occurred on a boat overloaded with migrants early this morning. We deplore the deaths of five people, a seven-year-old girl, a woman and three men,” local prefect Jacques Billant told reporters.

“The engine stopped a few hundred meters away from the shore and several people fell into the water,” Billant said.

The coastguard said 58 people had stayed on board.

“They did not want to be rescued, they managed to restart the engine and headed towards Britain,” Billant said.

The boat had left from Wimereux, about 32 km southwest of the French port of Calais.

More than 6 000 people have arrived in Britain this year via small, overloaded boats – usually flimsy inflatable dinghies – that risk being lashed by the waves as they try to reach British shores.

Tens of thousands have made the journey since 2018, and Britain has responded by spending two years trying to overcome opposition to a divisive policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda which it hopes will deter people from making the crossings.

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