France indicts nine suspects over Channel migrant disaster


French prosecutors have charged nine men for their involvement in the November 2021 incident in which 27 people drowned while trying to cross the English Channel.

This brings the total number of people charged for their alleged role in the disaster to 10, five of whom have been jailed for manslaughter, said the source who requested anonymity.

The death of 27 late November was the worst accident in the English Channel since 2018 when the strait became a key route for migrants from Africa, the Middle East and Asia who increasingly use small boats to reach England from France.

Among the 27 – aged between 7 and 47 – were 16 Iraqi Kurds, four Afghans, three Ethiopians, one Somali, one Egyptian and one Vietnamese.

Only two people survived the disaster, which sparked tensions between the British and French governments.

Police had arrested 15 suspects in an overnight operation from Sunday to Monday as part of their months-long investigation into the disaster, releasing five of them without charge.

The others were brought before a judge who charged one of them on Wednesday and the nine others on Thursday with, among other things, manslaughter, involuntary injury, endangering the lives of others and human trafficking, the source said.

Some of those charged are said to have acted as drivers, traffickers of human beings or hosted, in particular on behalf of a network originating in Afghanistan aiming to illegally bring migrants to Great Britain.