November 24 (UPI) — More than two dozen migrants attempting to sail the English Channel to Britain have died after their boat capsized off the coast of France, officials said on Wednesday.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex said the incident happened off the coast of Calais, saying it may have been organized by smugglers.
“The sinking in the English Channel is a tragedy,” Castex said on Twitter, translated by The New York Times. French media said the death toll could reach 27.
Annick Girardin, France’s maritime affairs minister, said a search was underway on Wednesday afternoon, including a British patrol boat as well as Belgian and British helicopters.
Natacha Bouchart, the mayor of Calais, told French media that the incident was a “human tragedy that I regret and fear since I was elected”, according to The New York Times.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “appalled” by the incident, according to to the Guardian.
“I just want to say that I am shocked, appalled and deeply saddened by the loss of life at sea in the English Channel,” he said.
“I think the details are still coming in but over 20 people lost their lives. My thoughts and sympathy go first to the victims and their families.
“It’s a terrible thing they’ve been through. But I also want to say that this disaster highlights how dangerous it is to cross the English Channel this way.”
Care4Calais, an association helping refugees in the north of France, call for a need [for] a modern system of safe and legal pathways for refugees to seek asylum in the UK.”
“After today’s tragedy, the UK asylum system must surely be considered intolerable by all reasonable people. On behalf of those who have died, we again urge the government to drop its anti- refugees and introduce a fair and modern system now. For the love of humanity,” the association said on Twitter.