A young migrant drowned yesterday trying to reach Britain in a 3ft dinghy – tragically highlighting the human cost of the crisis.
The victim, who could not swim, had set off from Calais in the middle of the night with a friend. The pair are thought to have accidentally punctured their inflatable craft with the shovels they were using as oars.
The dinghy started to sink and – although his friend somehow survived – the Sudanese migrant was unable to make it safely ashore.
His body was found on a beach at Sangatte seven hours later. He was only 16, according to France’s citizenship minister.
The tragedy sparked a major row yesterday over the Government’s handling of the crisis, which has seen record numbers cross the Channel in small boats this year.
The Bishop of Dover called for ‘definitive action’ to protect those ‘desperate enough to risk their lives’ in small boats.
The unnamed boy, who carried identity documents suggesting he was aged over 18, washed up on a French beach today after his makeshift raft upturned just minutes after he set out for the UK from Calais at 1.09am. Pictured, men use shovels as oars off the coast of France
The Sudanese migrant was one of many who tried to cross the Channel today (some pictured arriving at Dover)
‘How much worse does this have to get,’ said the Rt Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin. ‘We cannot let his death pass by unremarked. This appalling tragedy should be a wake-up call to all of us. We cannot stand by any longer while bodies wash up on the shores.’
Pierre-Henri Dumont, the MP for Calais, stoked up cross-Channel tensions by claiming Britain’s asylum policy was to blame.
He said: ‘What we all feared happened that night. How many more dramas will it take for the British to regain an ounce of humanity? The inability to apply for asylum in Great Britain without being physically present is causing these tragedies.’
However, the Tory MP Tim Loughton, a former children’s minister, claimed the ‘lack of humanity’ lay with the French for letting migrants attempt to cross the Channel.
‘It is appalling that the French are allowing people to endanger their lives,’ he told Channel 4 News. ‘That is where the lack of humanity is I’m afraid.’
Home Secretary Priti Patel described the death as ‘upsetting and tragic’ and blasted the criminal gangs and people smugglers who exploit those trying to reach the UK.
Another 135 migrants reached Britain yesterday and a further 41 were rescued from sinking boats in French waters and taken to French ports.
The boy is thought to have died within a few minutes of entering the water, while a friend who was with him survived with minor injuries and hypothermia. Pictured, one migrant uses a shovel as an oar while making the crossing in July
Home Secretary Priti Patel described the death as ‘upsetting and tragic’ and called on France to work with the UK to stop ‘abhorrent people smugglers’
‘This horrendous incident serves as a brutal reminder of the abhorrent criminal gangs and people smugglers who exploit vulnerable people,’ she added.
But she faced criticism from a string of Labour politicians, including Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds, who accused her of ‘lacking compassion and competence’.
The young Sudanese migrant who died set off from Sangatte shortly after midnight and was attempting to cross the busiest shipping lane in the world with a friend in a blow-up toy dinghy commonly found in supermarkets.
A night fisherman on the shoreline spotted the boat sinking and immediately called the emergency services. The victim is understood to be the first to die while trying to cross the Channel in a small boat this year.
His friend is being treated in a Calais hospital for shock and hypothermia. He told officials that he and his friend were both 16. Citizenship minister Marlene Schiappa said the death highlighted the need to tackle the smugglers.
But there was confusion about the victim’s age last night as one report in France suggested that documents retrieved from the victim’s body indicated he could have been older than 16.
The boy was discovered at Sangatte beach (pictured), near Calais, this morning after his friend who also fell overboard was spotted by a fisherman before being rescued
The boy, 16, fell overboard while attempting to cross the Channel last night. Dozens of migrants reached the UK today after setting out last night from France
Up to 50 migrants arrived in three boats before 8.30am this morning. Pierre-Henri Dumont, the MP for Calais, on Wednesday blamed Britain for the teenager’s death
Philippe Sabatier, the deputy prosecutor in Boulogne, announced that a criminal inquiry had been opened. His office will examine whether a trafficking gang was linked to the tragic attempt to cross the Channel.
‘The surviving migrant who accompanied him said that they had attempted the Channel crossing on board a small inflatable dinghy which they had stolen from a beach hut,’ said Mr Sabatier. ‘They had also equipped themselves with spades as oars. One of them accidentally punctured the craft with a spade and the two men fell into the water. Only the one who could swim managed to survive.’
Mr Sabatier said the survivor was ‘in a state of shock, and being treated in Calais hospital’. The remains of the boat were later found on the beach, along with a mobile phone, documents and a shovel.
Charles Devos, skipper of the Notre-Dame du Risban rescue boat, said: ‘It would have been impossible to make the crossing. And with the ferries passing at 22 knots, the rolls that occur after it left would have overturned the boat.
‘Without an engine, therefore, and builders’ shovels for oars, reaching British waters to be rescued by the Border Force would have been a miracle.’
Clare Moseley, founder of migrant charity Care4Calais, said the young man ‘did not deserve to die alone at sea’.
‘We are absolutely devastated by the unnecessary death,’ she said. ‘We can only imagine the fear he felt and our hearts go out to his family. This death starkly demonstrates the total failure of our government to do anything to help those who are in such desperate straits.
‘We need a way for people’s asylum claims to be fairly heard without them having to risk their lives. We need this before someone else dies.’
Former Royal Marine Dan O’Mahoney, who is leading Britain’s response to the illegal crossings, is expected to return to France today to continue searching for a solution to the crisis.
Paris has demanded £30million from the UK Government to bolster its Channel patrols, but Mrs Patel said any such funds are conditional on France taking back some of the migrants.
Almost 5,000 migrants have made the 21- mile crossing this year in small boats compared with just 1,850 during the whole of last year. Campaigners estimated this year’s total could reach at least 8,000. Around 1,400 have reached Britain in August.
A Home Office spokesperson said claims Ms Patel’s policies were responsible for the death were ‘utterly baseless’.
‘The UK has a long and proud history welcoming those in need and escaping persecution and resettles more refugees than any other country in Europe.
‘There are safe routes to claiming asylum for those in need and since 2015, we have resettled more than 25,000 refugees, around half of whom were children.’
A spokesman for France’s Maritime Prefecture that covers the English Channel and North Sea said the pair had been in a ‘makeshift boat.’
A statement said: ‘According to his initial statements, the survivor said he was accompanied on a makeshift boat, that they capsized and that his companion was still in the water. He also specified that his companion could not swim.’
A search and rescue operation was launched but called off at 4.39am after the 16-year-old could not be found.
The body of the teenager was found just after 7am on Wednesday morning after it was spotted by morning dog walkers. Pictured are migrants arriving in Dover
France and Britain are set to outline a plan of action which is expected to see France paying £30m to strengthen security in the English Channel
It was revealed this week that gangs offer gold, silver and bronze standard packages, with those opting for the cheaper crossing crammed in rickety crafts and even given shovels as paddles.
Earlier this month, the Home Office asked the Ministry of Defence for the Royal Navy to assist with stemming the flow of migrants.
There are no plans for ships to be used, but aircraft and surveillance will be deployed to help the under-strain Border Force.
Pierre-Henri Dumont, the MP for Calais, blasted the UK after news of the tragedy and blamed Britain for the teenager’s horrifying death.
He said: ‘What we all feared happened that night. How many more dramas will it take for the British to regain an ounce of humanity?
‘The inability to apply for asylum in Great Britain without being physically present is causing these tragedies.
Speaking after the news broke, Home Secretary Priti Patel described the death as ‘upsetting and tragic’
‘The migrants present in Calais do not seek asylum in France. They refuse the support offered by the state in dedicated centres, preferring to risk their lives on rafts.’
The increasingly bitter war of words between Britain and France as the migrant crisis worsens
August 6: Priti Patel threatens to send the Royal Navy to the Channel after several days of migrant boats arriving in Dover from France.
August 8: France demands £30 million from Britain to help stem the flow of migrants across the Channel.
August 10: Priti Patel demands French co-operation in a massive new ‘blockade’ of the Channel. She also threatens to refuse to give France anymore money unless it takes action to stop crossings.
August 12: Ice cream brand Ben and Jerry’s criticise the Home Secretary’s call for the Navy to stop migrants crossing the Channel, but a Home Office source immediately hit back, saying Miss Priti’s department did not care about angering ‘a brand of over-priced junk food’.
The Mayor of Calais said Britain sending in the Navy to police the Channel would be ‘a declaration of maritime war’.
August 13: Migrants including children arrived in Dover for the tenth day in a row as Kent County Council warned it was ‘days away’ from being unable to look after any more asylum seeking youngsters.
Priti Patel warns France the UK will not cough up millions of pounds for anti-migrant patrols unless it agrees to take back more refugees as she prepares sweeping changes to the ‘broken’ immigration system.
August 15: Shocking figures reveal more than 1,000 migrants arrived in the UK in 10 days after crossing the Channel in small boats.
Priti Patel sparks a diplomatic row by claiming migrants were crossing the Channel to escape ‘racist’ France, where they feared they would be tortured.
August 16: Judges condemn France for its ‘degrading and inhumane’ treatment of refugees in a scathing landmark ruling.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said the French authorities ‘had failed in their duties’ to support those who applied for asylum in the country.
August 19: A Sudanese migrant, 16, washes up dead on a beach in France after a desperate attempt to get to the UK.
France immediately blames Britain for the tragedy while Priti Patel calls for co-operation.
A large search and rescue operation was launched but called off at 4.39am after the boy could not be found.
It comes after Ms Patel demanded the French do more to make the route ‘unviable’, while Calais officials have blamed Britain for the crisis.
The body of the teenager was found after it was spotted by morning dog walkers, said a source working for the emergency services in Calais.
‘Everybody has known for a long while that a fatality was imminent. This tragedy is terrible,’ the source added.
The Calais emergency services source added: ‘Police and paramedics attended the scene, and efforts were made on the beach in Sangatte to try and revive the victim.
‘Papers were found on him which showed he was a Sudanese man, aged sixteen. He disappeared overnight on Tuesday while trying to get to England.
‘The victim’s body was taken away, and will be subject to an autopsy. Efforts will also be made to contact next of kin.’
The source said that a couple with a six-year-old child and an 18-month-old baby were among those who had been rescued in the Channel by the French emergency services on Sunday in a kayak.
Immigration minister Chris Philp said: ‘This awful tragedy near Calais shows how dangerous this migration route is.
‘We will redouble our work to agree and implement a new plan with France with the aim of completely stopping these boat crossings, which are facilitated by ruthless criminals and which risk lives’
Dover MP Natalie Elphicke said: ‘I have been warning for months about the risk of further loss of life from dangerous journeys across the English Channel.
‘This latest death in the Channel is both shocking and sad.
‘It underlines that it is essential to bring an urgent end to these perilous small boat crossings.’
Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, criticised Ms Patel.
She said: ‘It is devastating to learn that a child has now died in the Channel while trying to seek safety in the UK. This is a horrifying but wholly expected death.
‘We have repeatedly warned Priti Patel it was only a matter of time before her toxic policy to deny safe and legal routes to the UK would cost lives.
‘This death lies firmly at her door. She should consider her position.’
British Red Cross CEO, Mike Adamson, said, ‘The loss of this young life is an unnecessary tragedy, and we’re devastated to hear this news. Saving lives should be the absolute priority in any response or policies on Channel crossings.
‘It’s unacceptable in any circumstances that people feel they have no choice but to make dangerous journeys in their search for protection.
‘There are no easy answers but at the heart of the response must be the preservation of life.
‘At a time when more than one percent of the world’s population has been displaced, we need countries to work together to provide the best humanitarian outcome that prevent these tragedies.’
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought into Dover, Kent, following a number of small boat incidents in the Channel earlier today
Kent Refugee Action Network issued a statement saying: ‘We are devastated to learn of the death of a 16 year old boy in Sangatte.
‘This death was completely avoidable. Along with many other migrant and refugee organisations we have been calling for safe passage for some time now.
‘Meanwhile the government’s response has been both chaotic and callous, and utterly against the proud British tradition of offering refuge to those in need.
‘The government needs to step up to its humanitarian responsibility immediately and ensure safe and legal passage so that we avoid any more unnecessary deaths.’
Retired Coastguard officer Andy Roberts, 71, warned there could be more tragedies like this.
He said: ‘This is an absolute tragedy. This shows the danger in attempting these crossings, especially in these extremely unsuitable craft by people with no knowledge of the sea.
‘If these crossings continue, then there will be greater tragedies in the near future. Soon there’s going to be 10, 12, 15 people whose boat capsizes and they die.
‘Even if they’re wearing life jackets, they’d only have a survival time of around an hour out at sea unless they were spotted and rescued because of the fear, panic and cold would hit them.
‘They may well be trying to get over before the weather deteriorates, which is forecast in the next week.’
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has responded to the death of a 16-year-old boy in the Channel, calling it a ‘tragedy’.
He said: ‘This is a humanitarian crisis that needs a compassionate response.
‘Nick Thomas-Symonds wrote to the Home Secretary last week to demand an urgent change in approach from the Government.’
While the British government has continually accused the French of not doing enough to intercept small boats packed with migrants, the French believe the real problems are in the UK
Ms Patel previously insisted she is working to make the Calais to Dover migrant route ‘completely unviable’
Labour shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds slammed the government over the death.
He said: ‘The news of the death of a 16-year-old boy in the Channel is heartbreaking and our thoughts are with his loved ones.
‘The Government’s response to the situation in the Channel has been lacking in compassion and competence.
‘Ministers urgently need to step up work with international partners to find a humanitarian solution to this crisis, which is costing lives.’
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said on Twitter of the 16-year-old’s death: ‘Utterly heartbreaking. By closing safe routes to seek asylum we are pushing desperate people into dangerous situations with devastating consequences.
‘Our Govt must make protecting and saving lives a priority in their approach to English Channel crossings.’
Today’s tragedy is believed to be first known migrant death this year despite more than 4,800 making the treacherous crossing.
Last August, two people died trying to reach Britain – one of them an Iranian woman who fell overboard and whose body was found in Dutch waters weeks later.
And a 48-year-old Iraqi man was found dead in Belgian waters after he tried to swim to the UK using plastic bottles as a makeshift life jacket.
France and Britain are set to outline a plan of action which is expected to see France paying £30m to strengthen security in the English Channel.
While the British government has continually accused the French of not doing enough to intercept small boats packed with migrants, the French believe the real problems are in the UK.
Philippe Mignonet, the deputy mayor of Calais, said last week: ‘Yes, I fear a tragedy one day at sea, but the British blame us for their own hypocrisy.
‘The migrants go to Great Britain because they can work in the black economy when they want, because there is no control, not on the street or in the workplace.’
Mr Mignonet’s words were backed up by Bernard Barron, president of the SNSM sea rescue service in Calais.
Mr Barron said: ‘The British criticise migrants for wanting to come but they do not criticise themselves, questioning the reasons that make their country so attractive.
‘The SNSM now observes that the candidates for exile have mastered the sea and, with GPS support, wait until they are in British waters to send out an SOS call.’
Chris Philp, Britain’s immigration minister, attended bilateral talks about the problem in Paris last week and agreed more money was needed.
‘It’s clear more needs to be done,’ said Mr Philp. ‘If we can make this [English Channel] route unviable, which we are determined to do, then migrants will have no reason at all to come to France in the first place.’
Ms Patel previously insisted she is working to make the Calais to Dover migrant route ‘completely unviable’.
She earlier warned France the UK will not cough up millions of pounds for anti-migrant patrols unless it agrees to take back more refugees as she prepares sweeping changes to the ‘broken’ immigration system.
The Home Secretary told Tory MPs that she was preparing legal changes that would ‘send the left into meltdown’.
In a Zoom call with hardline backbenchers she suggested that the system was being ‘exploited by leftie Labour-supporting lawyers’ who were doing everything they could to stop the Government removing people.
And she said that France’s demand for £30million to fund Channel patrols and surveillance would be dependent on it taking in more of those seeking to get to the UK, the Times reported.
Recent reports have revealed how traffickers take advantage of vulnerable asylum seekers desperately fleeing their homelands by offering a paid-for arrangement at a camp in Calais.
The most expensive package, gold, costs £10,000 and means you get a larger boat with better conditions, less other people and lifejackets, as reported by The Sun.
One migrant who was hoping to make the journey in the next few days told the newspaper: ‘The prices vary. It depends on the size of the boat and how many people are inside.
‘People come around offering the crossings. We pay and keep in touch. They tell us when and where to go and pick us up.
‘I’m looking forward to it. Britain is like heaven to me!’
The silver package costs between £3,000 and £5,000, and means you get a worse boat. And the lowest package, bronze, means you pay a prize of £1,000 or less and are often crammed onto a stolen boat.
So far this year, at least 4,822 migrants have reached Britain by boat.
On Sunday, a migrant in his 20s was attacked by a thug who saw him land on the beach at Kingsdown near Deal, Kent.
It emerged earlier in the week that any new, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children would be left with Border Force after Kent County Council announced it had reached capacity.
Charities say the situation is a ‘scandal’ and a ‘political failure’, calling on the Government to urgently find a way forward.
Calais Jungle is home to hundreds who have already been told they CANNOT stay in EU – as 70% of migrants who sail into Europe from Libya do not qualify for asylum, reveals UN report
The Calais Jungle migrant camp is filled with hundreds who have already been told they cannot stay in the EU, it has been claimed.
Tony Smith, the former director general of the Border Force, has said that officials are seeing the ‘same faces’ among those attempting to make the crossing from Calais to the UK.
It comes as it was revealed that the majority of migrants using one of the most common sea routes into Europe are not in need of ‘international protection’, according to a UN report.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees found that more than 70 per cent of migrants crossing from Libya to Europe are unlikely to qualify for asylum when they arrive.
Vincent Cochetel, the UNHCR special envoy for the region, also admitted that a ‘fair and equitable return mechanism’ must be put in place.
The former director general of the Border Force, has said that officials are seeing the ‘same faces’ among those attempting to make the crossing from Calais to the UK
It comes as it was revealed that the majority of migrants using one of the most common sea routes into Europe are not in need of ‘international protection’
If it is not, then ‘the entire asylum system will be called into question’.
Of the 41,129 migrants who have come to Europe this year, 18.3 per cent are from Tunisia, while 10.3 per cent are from Algeria.
According to the UNHCR report, migrants who travelled from Libya to Italy and Malta made up 68 per cent of arrivals to Europe via the Central Mediterranean between January and May.
Around 8,600 people have departed from the North African country by sea, with Bangladeshis, Sudanese and Somalis the most common nationalities making the crossing.
The report reads: ‘As of the end of May, an estimated 28% of the people who had crossed the sea from Libya are likely to be in need of international protection.’
The vast majority of those attempting to reach Britain from Calais have travelled over land through the EU, experts say.
The news comes amid an increase in migrant crossings in the UK, with a record number attempting to come over in small boats from Calais.
The news comes amid an increase in migrant crossings in the UK, with a record number attempting to come over in small boats from Calais
Hundreds of migrants have been landing on the Kent coast in recent weeks as warm weather and calm sea conditions encouraged them over from France. Pictured, UK border force officials with migrants on August 15
Former Border Force director general Tony Smith told the Telegraph: ‘A lot of people who are in Calais have already been told that they cannot stay in the EU, some of them have been refused in a couple of different countries, but they don’t want to go back.
‘The French can’t remove them so they are just their names and details and telling them to stop trying to break the law.’
Mr Smith now chairs an international border association including the UK border force.
He said that smugglers have the ‘upper hand’ and it will encourage more people to travel to northern France to ‘try their luck’ as the smugglers have found ‘a gap in our defences’.
He also insisted migrants crossings were an international issue and called on assistance and action from the French.
He added: ‘We must put the smugglers out of business. These are busy shipping lanes, the boats could get run over by a ferry without even knowing it, and babies drowning in the Channel is not what anyone wants to see.
‘There is a real reason for stopping this no matter what your opinion on asylum is, this is a matter of life of death. These are human beings and these organised criminal gangs do not care if they survive or not.’