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Rescue underway in English Channel after refugee boat sinks

December 14, 2022

The UK deployed helicopters and lifeboats after a refugee boat sunk while trying to reach the UK from France. Several people have lost their lives.

A UK rescue boat returning to the port of Dover
The rescue operation was a joint effort between UK and French emergency servicesImage: Peter Nicholls/REUTERS

The UK and France announced on Wednesday that they had launched a rescue operation in the English Channel following reports that a refugee boat had sunk.

Details about the type of vessel involved and the number of people aboard remained unclear, but the British government reported that at least four people had died.

The crossing is extremely dangerous due to the Channel being one of the world's busiest shipping lanes and the frigid weather this time of year. This has not stopped refugees attempting the crossing in small dinghies. In November 2021, 27 people drowned during a similar incident.

The rescue operation is a coordinated effort between the British and French navies, the UK border patrol, air ambulances and other emergency services.

Tens of thousands crossed the Channel in 2022

British Interior Minister Suella Braverman, who has controversially described it as her "dream" to deport UK asylum seekers to Rwanda, called the event "distressing."

"I am being kept constantly updated while agencies respond and urgently establish the full facts," she wrote on Twitter. "My heartfelt thoughts are with all those involved."

According to the International Organization for Migration, at least 205 refugees have gone missing in the English Channel since 2014. This year alone, 43,000 asylum seekers have made the journey.

es/dj (AFP, Reuters)