Great Britain

Eighteen people in hospital as migrant boat sinks off French coast

Search operations are ongoing after a migrant boat sank off the coast of France.

Eighteen people have been taken to hospital, according to French authorities, after the incident on Tuesday. Military resources as well as civilian boats have been involved in the rescue operation after the vessel was seen to be in difficulty near Dunkirk. The people are thought to have been trying to cross to the UK, despite wind gusts of up to 18mph.

The vessel, described as a small “fishing pleasure boat” was spotted capsizing and sinking around 9.30am on Tuesday by an English yachtsman. He raised the alarm sparking a large search and rescue operation from the French coast, involving six boats and three aircraft, that lasted well into the afternoon.

French patrol boats and a helicopter from the Belgian air force as well as a fishing boat were dispatched.

An investigation has been launched by the Dunkirk public prosecutor.

Hervé Tourmente, an official in the north of France, said the boat was carrying Iranian migrants including men, women and children.

He said statements from those rescued suggested a child was also missing.

While the exact number of passengers was not known there were thought to be up to 20 on the boat. The weather conditions were “not favourable at all”, Tourmente told a press conference.

The aim was to “recover as many people as possible”, he said.

An increasing number of desperate people have been attempting to cross the Channel on makeshift boats in recent months. According to the prefecture, four people died in 2019 and now four so far this year.

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