A manslaughter investigation has been opened after a migrant died trying to cross the channel, a French prosecutor has said.
One migrant in his 30s was pulled from the water unconscious and was later pronounced dead when rescuers returned to shore, it has been reported. Another migrant is thought to be missing after the incident on Wednesday.
French officials confirmed that the rescue mission took place after a small boat capsized off the coast of Dunkirk.
Dunkirk prosecutor Sebastien Pive said on Thursday that the overcrowded vessel had “around 40 people on board” and many did not have life jackets.
Mr Pive said that an investigation had been opened “for manslaughter” and that the French border police were investigating. “The man died when a small boat which could well have been damaged sank,” Mr Pive said.
“The dead person was an adult male in his 30s who was still alive when rescuers brought him back to France.
“The rescuers did their best, but he was declared dead when the rescue boat arrived back at the dock”.
Several ships from the French navy, coast guard and customs authorities were involved in the operation.
Mr Pive added that officials would be looking for those who had organised Wednesday’s crossing.
These trips are often organised by people smuggles who charge thousands of pounds to try and get migrants to the UK.
Some 292 people were recovered from the sea during the night of Monday to Tuesday, according to the authorities.
Mr Pive said that the large numbers of people trying to make the crossing this week had been driven by “relatively mild weather conditions”.
This is the second death in a week of someone attempting to cross the channel. Three migrants were reported to have drowned after falling overboard near the coast of Harwich, Essex last week.
News of the tragedy comes as new figures compiled by the PA news agency show that more than 20,000 people attempted to cross the channel this year.
Some 19,756 people succeeded in reaching UK shores in small boats since the start of the year, according to this data. That is more than double the total for 2020.
On Tuesday more than a dozen migrants were filmed sitting on a sinking dinghy in the channel. They had to be rescued by a passing ferry.
The captain of the ship apologised to passengers on the route, saying: “We had to stop and rescue 13 migrants in distress whose boat had run out of fuel and was sinking.”
Following a surge of channel crossings on Monday, Dan O’Mahoney, the UK’s clandestine channel threat commander, said: “These journeys are illegal, dangerous, unnecessary and facilitated by violent criminal gangs profiting from misery.
“We are working with the French to stop boats leaving their beaches and crack down on the criminals driving these crossings.”
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