Three people confirmed dead and 43 rescued after Channel tragedy

14 December 2022

HM Coastguard are conducting a search-and-rescue operation for an incident involving a small boat in the Channel. Britain's government and emergency officials confirmed that an incident was ongoing, with lifeboats, helicopters and rescue teams working with the French and British navies to respond to an event that occurred at around 3:40 a.m. There are reports of three fatalities, with 43 rescued, including families with children. Four people are confirmed dead.

It comes just over a year after 27 people died while attempting to cross the sea in an inflatable dinghy in November 2021, in the worst recorded accident of its kind in the Channel. Temperatures have plunged across Britain in the last week, bringing snow to parts of the country. 

Despite the freezing temperatures, more than 500 refugees have made the perilous journey in small boats since the weekend alone, with the people traffickers who organise the crossings taking advantage of low winds and calm seas.

They have followed the more than 40,000 who have arrived from France this year, many having made the journey from Afghanistan or Iran to travel across Europe and on to Britain.

This latest tragedy occurred a day after British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced plans to toughen the laws to stop the small boats crossing the Channel, including legislation to prevent migrants from remaining in the country.

Sunak said that Britain's "generosity" was being abused by people arriving illegally. While official routes exist for people to arrive in the UK from Ukraine and Hong Kong, there are no safe routes for people to apply to come to Britain from countries such as Afghanistan, Iran and Syria.

The government has said that a tougher line is also needed to deter people from risking their lives, and breaking the business model of people traffickers.

Data compiled by the Missing Migrants Project showed 205 migrants had been recorded dead or missing in the English Channel since 2014.

Robina Qureshi, CEO of refugee and homelessness charity Positive Action in Housing said:

"This is a worrying reminder that refugees are still risking their lives on dangerous journeys across the Channel in freezing winter conditions. 
"The Government has learned precisely nothing from the deaths of 27 people just over a year ago. Instead, it plans to criminalise refugees for crossing the Channel - while providing NO safe route here. 

"It's not a crime to seek asylum in this country. You can't claim asylum unless your physically in the UK. This, combined with the failure to afford safe routes to refugees from the Middle East and Africa, means that a tiny sliver of a fraction of the world's 70M refugees will continue to risk their lives on small boats to get here.

"Rishi Sunak's characterisation of refugees as somehow abusing Britain's "generosity" is more dog-whistle rhetoric. Asylum seekers who arrive here are forbidden to work, are waiting years for a decision on their asylum claim, and are expected to exist on as little as £1.17 a day. We work with thousands of people who have fled war or persecution each year, doctors, pharmacists, engineers, teachers, and nurses who are left to live like this, with no decision at all, desperate to rebuild their lives and contribute to this country and pay their way. This country will suffer by denying them this opportunity to contribute and be part of our society."

"More men, women and children are likely to die trying to get here due to the failure to provide safe and legal routes. Deterrence strategies serve only to make routes more dangerous. It doesn't stop people from coming. 

"Those crossing the Channel tend to be war refugees or fleeing persecution, from Afghanistan and Iran, just like the Ukrainians. The only difference is war refugees from Ukraine have a safe route here - in the form of a humanitarian visa scheme called Homes from Ukraine - whereas war refugees from countries like Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen do not. 

"The government must provide safe routes and long-term strategies instead of finding new ways of hurting people fleeing war, torture and human trafficking. And where we don't deal with it, a tiny sliver of a fraction of the world's refugee population will risk their lives in desperation to get here.

Data compiled by the Missing Migrants Project showed 205 migrants had been recorded dead or missing in the English Channel since 2014.

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