French police arrest four men after two migrants died trying to cross the Channel on a small boat

  • Two people died last Wednesday after a small boat capsized shortly after launch 

Four men were arrested last night over the deaths of two migrants who died in an attempted Channel crossing on a small boat.

French police swooped in and arrested two Iraqis and two Sudanese men on suspicion of involuntary murder, endangering lives, assistance in illegal entry and being involved in an organised crime gang.

Detectives grabbed them at a location where they are believed to have been staying since the tragedy on Wednesday, November 22, in which two people died.

Fifty-seven people were rescued by boat and taken to safety in the French town of Boulogne-sur-Mer while another was airlifted to safety.

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dungeness, Kent, by RNLI lifeboat following a small boat incident in the Channel, on November 22, 2023

Up to 60 people were believed to be travelling on the craft when it sank on the way to Britain 

An emergency worker guides a person thought to be a migrant to safety after being brought to shore in Kent

People believed to be migrants stand clutching life jackets after being brought ashore to the UK

The identity of the two dead has not yet been established and an autopsy is yet to take place.

Patrick Leleu, deputy prosecutor of the Boulogne public prosecutors office said: ‘A judicial investigation is open for assistance in illegal entry and stay in an organised gang, involuntary homicide, involuntary injuries and endangering the lives of others.

‘These people are clearly blamed for these two deaths.’

Sources say detectives analysed mobile phone call data after the tragedy to establish links with the organised crime gang and find those responsible.

One said: ‘A painstaking investigation will now continue to see if more people are responsible and how the boat was transported.

‘No stone will be left unturned. There are likely to be more people involved.

‘Work is also ongoing to establish the identities of the victims in the case.’

The two people who died were aged somewhere around 30, but it was not known where they came from.

Officers watched the craft, carrying 60 people, leave from a beach on the coast of northern France on Wednesday morning.

But within two hours the massively overcrowded craft capsized.

Boulogne-sur-Mer prosecutor Guirec Le Bras said the boat was among several to leave a beach near the French port on Wednesday morning, despite the presence of paramilitary gendarmes.

A person on a stretcher is brought to safety by emergency workers following the capsizing of the boat

A group of migrants brought in by RNLI Dungeness Lifeboat on November 22, 2023

More than 27,060 people have entered Britain on small boats since the start of 2023, despite regular claims of government action (file photo)

A French investigating source said: ‘Several boats left beaches around the town of Neufchatel-Hardelot on Wednesday.

‘Police were watching them, but were reluctant to intervene when they were in the water. Soon afterwards, one of the boats capsized, flinging everyone into the sea.’

Many of those rescued were suffering from hypothermia, having spent time in the water.

Olivier Ternisien, head of the Osmose 62 group that helps would-be migrants in the Boulogne region, told the AFP news agency that people trying to get to Britain were taking bigger risks with the deteriorating weather.

The deaths last Wednesday came almost two years to the day since Britain’s deadliest migrant boat incident which saw at least 27 people die, including a pregnant woman and three children.

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