UK: Four dead after English Channel disaster

At least four people have died in a boat accident in the English Channel.

UK: Four dead after English Channel disaster

At least four people have died in a boat accident in the English Channel. The British government confirmed this at noon after a boat with migrants on board capsized in the waters between France and Great Britain in the early hours of the morning. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke in Parliament of a "tragic loss of life".

According to media reports, 43 people are said to have been rescued alive from the cold water. Images released by Sky News show people climbing out of an overcrowded black inflatable boat onto a lifeboat in the dark.

"It was like something out of a World War II movie"

The skipper of a fishing boat nearby heard screams in the night. "It was like something out of a WWII film, there were people all over the water, screaming," the man, named Raymond, told Sky News after he and his crew rescued around 30 shipwrecked people. Those rescued from Afghanistan, Iraq, Senegal and India told him they had paid around 5,000 pounds (around 5,800 euros) to a smuggler in France.

The Coast Guard, together with the military, police, private helpers and border guards, coordinated a search and rescue mission that involved at least two helicopters and British and French lifeboats. The search for missing persons will continue for the rest of the day, Sky News reported. However, due to the cold temperatures - in the past few nights they have fallen below zero in the region - the search for survivors is no longer being carried out.

"For someone to make this journey in these temperatures shows how desperate people are," said Alex Fraser of the British Red Cross. "No one puts their life on the line unless they feel there is no other option."

It is not the first time that the English Channel has become a death trap for those who hope for a better future on the other side: around 30 people died in a boat accident in the English Channel just over a year ago.

According to the British Ministry of Defence, around 40,000 people had already made the dangerous journey across the English Channel by mid-November this year. Last year there were around 28,500 people. Other routes - such as road or rail - are used less frequently after Brexit and corona restrictions due to stricter controls by asylum seekers.

"Anyone who enters the UK illegally must not stay here"

Prime Minister Sunak only published plans on Tuesday to take even tougher action against illegal migration. Home Secretary Suella Braverman, known for her radical stance on migration, announced in the House of Commons: "We will introduce new legislation that will make it clear that anyone entering the UK illegally cannot stay here." Those migrants would have to expect to be repatriated to their home country or a safe country. The UN refugee agency UNHCR has already criticized London for these plans: With a few exceptions, the possibility of applying for asylum would be abolished, which would mean a breach of international law.

Tim Naoir Hilton, head of refugee agency Refugee Action, said the disaster was "caused by hostile government policies designed to keep people out of the country rather than to keep them safe."

Gaining control over who comes into the country and under what conditions was one of the key promises of Brexit. In fact, this has become even more difficult for Brits after leaving the EU, as they are no longer part of the EU-wide rules on the jurisdiction of asylum procedures.