Detectives have launched an investigation into the Channel boat tragedy after four migrants died and 39 survivors, including 12 children, had to be re
Detectives have launched an investigation into the Channel boat tragedy after four migrants died and 39 survivors, including 12 children, had to be rescued when a dinghy sank.
Officers from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, assisted by the National Crime Agency, are involved in the operation.
A Kent Police spokesperson said today: ‘The circumstances surrounding the deaths of four people in the English Channel are being investigated by detectives from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, assisted by the National Crime Agency.
‘Kent Police was called to Dover to assist HM Coastguard following a report received in the early hours of Wednesday 14 December 2022 of a small boat in distress in the water.
Detectives have launched an investigation into the Channel boat tragedy after four migrants died and 39 survivors, including 12 children, had to be rescued after a dinghy sank
A Kent Police spokesperson said the circumstances of the deaths are being investigated by detectives from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, assisted by the National Crime Agency
‘A multi-agency search and rescue operation was carried out, resulting in 39 people being safely brought to shore. Four other people have been pronounced deceased.
‘Officers are working to establish the identity of the deceased and locate the next of kin.’
British and French search teams raced to the area between Lydd in Kent and the Cap Gris Nez south of Calais in France in the early hours on Wednesday.
Some 43 asylum seekers were plucked from the freezing waters after their vessel came into trouble at around 2am.
It is understood with sea temperatures as low as just 9 degrees celsius, people in the water would have had just five minutes before their limbs began to cramp up because of the cold.
Four died, with the same number feared to have been missing. The search for any remaining survivors was called off at around 5pm yesterday.
Some 43 asylum seekers were plucked from the freezing waters after their vessel came into trouble at around 2am
National Crime Agency Director General Graeme Biggar said today: ‘First and foremost this incident is a tragedy, and our thoughts have to be with the families and loved ones of those who died. Given the conditions I am also thankful that the death toll was not higher, and I pay tribute to all those who responded so quickly in the Channel on Wednesday morning. They undoubtedly saved lives.
‘A full investigation is now underway into the circumstances around these deaths, which is led by Kent Police.
‘I have offered them the full support and resources of the NCA, including our network of liaison officers in France who are already engaged with French partners.
‘This incident, tragically, highlights the dangers of these crossings, a high percentage of which are facilitated by organised criminal networks. They treat people as a commodity to be profited from and think nothing of putting them in incredibly dangerous situations.
‘Working with our partners on both sides of the Channel we are determined to find those responsible and bring them to justice.’
The first images from the scene, obtained exclusively by Sky News, show a number of migrants being rescued from an inflatable boat
Kent County Council leader Roger Gough told a council meeting yesterday that a youngster was one of the fatalities, while 12 of the 39 who survived were children travelling on their own.
The tragedy, he said, was a ‘sobering reminder of the human costs of what is an ongoing crisis’.
The 12 Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) have now been taken into the case of Kent County Council.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said 401 migrants were detected in eight boats on Wednesday, not including those who died.
It now takes the number rescued in the Channel after crossing from France to 45,112 – compared to 28,526 in 2021.
Despite appalling conditions 1,212 have made it so far in December alone in 38 boats.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said 401 migrants were detected in eight boats on Wednesday, not including those who died. It now takes the number rescued in the Channel after crossing from France to 45,112 – compared to 28,526 in 2021
On Thursday evening, a spokeswoman for the Government said: ‘The extensive search coordinated by HM Coastguard for people missing from a small boat in the English Channel was concluded at 1700 today.
‘A total of 43 people were recovered from the water, sadly including four fatalities.
‘Our thoughts continue to be with those affected by this tragic incident and with the families of those who have lost their lives.
‘We would like to thank everyone involved in the search and rescue operation.’
During the search, drones were being used to scan the water for anyone unaccounted for, with ships asked to post lookouts.
The major rescue operation off the Kent coast began at 2.16am on Wednesday after reports of a boat in distress, and involved the Royal Navy, French navy, Coastguard, RNLI lifeboats, ambulance service and police.
A fishing boat was first on the scene, arriving at 3.04am, and was one of three to help in the rescue, the Government said.
The search for any remaining survivors was called off at around 5pm yesterday. Pictured: Police Forensic officers at the RNLI station at the Port of Dover after Wednesday’s search
Inflatable craft and boat engines used by migrants to cross the channel are stored in a Home Office facility on December 15, 2022 in Dover, England
The RNLI’s Simon Ling said the scenes faced by arriving lifeboat crews were ‘harrowing’.
Speaking at the Dungeness lifeboat station, the charity’s head of lifeboats said: ‘The fishing boats were already on the scene but it’s fair to say the crews arrived to quite a distressing and harrowing situation with persons in the water in varying levels of distress.’
The incident was ‘hugely traumatic’ for all involved and lifeboat crews had to get those rescued ‘out of the water as quickly as possible’ and ‘deal with various states including being very cold and hypothermic’, he said.
‘Ahead of any investigation or review of what happened, it’s fair to say that the fishing boat and the actions of its crew undoubtedly saved lives, and the RNLI would very much want to recognise that,’ Mr Ling added.
Dramatic moment migrants are pulled from the waters off the coast of Kent in the early hours of Wednesday morning
Two casualties were taken to the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, bosses there said.
One was later discharged but the other had died by the time they arrived, it is understood.
The MAIB said: ‘We are in the process of gathering information about the incident as part of the process of conducting a preliminary assessment.
‘A decision on whether an investigation will be launched will be made once the evidence has been reviewed.’
The perilous crossing on Wednesday came despite freezing temperatures and just hours after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a new crackdown on illegal immigration – which some MPs said is more vital than ever following the tragic events, which were allegedly orchestrated by a trafficker in France who charged each migrant £5,000.
Footage from the rescue operation showed fear and terror etched onto the faces of some of the young men and boys who risked their lives to make it to Britain.
Ben Squire, owner of a fishing vessel that first arrived to the scene, told MailOnline how he rescued dozens of migrants.
He said: ‘We managed to rescue 31 people, the rest were picked up by Costguard or unfortunately have died or are presumed missing.
‘We took in four children from the boat. The youngest was an 11-year-old boy from Afghanistan, who was with his family. The other children came from Senegal and Afghanistan.
‘Those brought aboard were in various conditions. Some were critical, others were less seriously injured, who were given a hot shower, food and the crews’ dry clothing.
‘As I understand it, there were at least four people who were dead in the water. Others are believed missing.
‘Ray and the crew saved so many lives, they acted quickly and are all heroes.’
The fishing crew, skippered by Ray Strachan, earlier gave a shocking account of how drowning migrants ‘screamed’ for help.
The captain Ray described the scenes as ‘something out of a Second World War movie’, telling Sky News: ‘There were people in the water everywhere, screaming.’
Those hauled aboard – who came from Afghanistan, Iraq, Senegal and India – said they had paid £5,000 to a trafficker in France for their passage.