Teenager denies involvement in English Channel migrant boat tragedy

Four people drowned after inflatable boat capsized

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A 19-year-old man pleaded not guilty when he appeared in court on Monday charged with helping migrants enter the UK.

The charge related to a migrant boat which capsized in the Channel.

Four migrants were killed trying to make the crossing while another 39 were taken safely to shore.

Ibrahima Bah appeared at Folkestone Magistrates’ Court in Kent and denied facilitating attempted illegal entry to the UK.

Mr Bah, of no fixed address, was remanded in custody by Deputy District Judge Nicola Fleck to appear at Canterbury Crown Court on January 16.

A major rescue operation off the Kent coast began at 2.16am last Wednesday after reports of a boat in distress, with the Royal Navy, French navy, coastguard, RNLI lifeboats, ambulance service and police involved.

The circumstances surrounding the deaths are being investigated by detectives from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, assisted by the National Crime Agency.

A man was arrested in connection with the incident on Friday, and on Sunday Kent Police said the Crown Prosecution Service authorised a charge against Mr Bah of knowingly facilitating the attempted arrival in the UK of people he knew or had reasonable cause to believe were asylum seekers.

Police are continuing to work to establish the identity of those who died and locate their next of kin.

The case comes on the day Home Secretary Suella Braverman said she was “committed” to the plan to deter illegal Channel crossings by sending migrants to Rwanda after the High Court ruled that the policy was lawful.

Several challenges were brought against the proposals announced by then-home secretary Priti Patel in April, which she described as a “world-first agreement” with the east African nation in a bid to deter migrants from crossing the Channel.

At the High Court in London on Monday, senior judges rejected arguments that the plans to provide one-way tickets to Rwanda were unlawful.

However, he said the Home Secretary “has not properly considered” the eight individuals’ cases, which meant the decisions to send them to Rwanda would be quashed and sent back for reconsideration.

After the verdict, Ms Braverman said she had “always maintained that this policy is lawful and today the court has upheld this”.

Updated: December 19, 2022, 4:41 PM
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