Four people charged over deaths of six Afghan migrants in English Channel

French authorities will prosecute the suspects after a vessel carrying 65 people capsized

Six people died last week when a boat carrying migrants sank off the coast of Sangatte, France. PA
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Four people have been charged over the deaths of six Afghan migrants who died after the vessel they were in capsized in the English Channel.

French prosecutors say they have charged the suspects with involuntary manslaughter over the deaths.

The suspects, two Iraqis and two Sudanese, were detained shortly after the vessel carrying about 65 people capsized early on Saturday, leaving six Afghans dead.

They also face charges of criminal conspiracy for illegal immigration, with the Iraqis suspected of belonging to a human trafficking network.

Most of those on board were Afghans, along with some Sudanese and "a few minors", French authorities said.

Investigators determined that an engine breakdown led to the vessel capsizing in the choppy waters of the busy shipping lane, the Paris prosecutor's office said.

The boat was "torn apart at sea" and most of the passengers had no life jackets, it added.

Empty migrant boat seen floating in English Channel

Empty migrant boat seen floating in English Channel

A commercial vessel discovered the shipwreck and alerted authorities, with the French coastguard rescuing 38 people and the British 23.

The survivors in France have been interviewed, and a request for assistance was sent to British authorities to interview those on their side, the prosecutor's office said.

When the capsizing vessel was spotted on Saturday, emergency services were immediately sent to the area, according to the French prosecutor's office. A helicopter and maritime surveillance plane were also despatched.

The rescue mission is a stark contrast to a similar incident in November 2021 when 27 migrants died.

French authorities then were accused of failing to respond to about 15 calls for help, and seven soldiers were charged over the incident. The sinking caused tension between Britain and France over who needs to do more to prevent such disasters.

French authorities have stepped up patrols and other deterrents after London agreed in March to send Paris hundreds of millions of euros annually toward the effort.

More than 100,000 migrants have crossed the Channel on small boats from France to south-east England since Britain began publicly recording the arrivals in 2018, official figures revealed last Friday.

Updated: August 17, 2023, 9:48 AM