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Five migrants including child dead in Channel hours after Rwanda bill passes

A child was among five people who died while trying to cross the Channel in a small boat, just hours after the government’s Rwanda bill passed, according to French authorities.

The French Coastguard confirmed that three men, a woman and a child died during the incident in the early hours of Tuesday morning, according to provisional information.

A boat carrying 110 people set off from Plage des Allemands, a beach in Wimereux, about 20 miles south of Calais, at 5am.

After running aground in a sand bank, the boat attempted to set sail again. The Coastguard said that a “crowd movement” caused the deaths.

Another individual sustained a minor injury.

French newspaper La Voix Du Nord has reported that the father of a four-year-old girl was among the survivors, found rescue services in tears on the beach. His daughter’s condition is not clear.

Footage and photos taken this morning showed small boats attempting the perilous crossing to Kent through the busy shipping route.

The deadly Channel incident came just hours after the Government’s Rwanda deportation plan passed through Parliament, with the Lords finally approving the bill after a lengthy back and forth with MPs.

The plan would see some asylum seekers who arrive by small boat sent to Rwanda to be processed, without their claims being heard in the UK first and with no recourse for them to return to the UK.

Rishi Sunak said “nothing will stand in our way” of getting flights off the ground, pledging that planes would take off in ten to 12 weeks time.

The Refugee Council described reports of deaths in the English Channel as “devastating” and “all the more tragic” coming just hours after the Rwanda Bill was passed in Parliament.

Enver Solomon, the council’s chief executive, said: “It is shocking to learn of the terrible loss of yet more lives in the Channel this morning. Our thoughts go out to the families and loved ones of those affected. This is another devastating human tragedy that could and should have been avoided – and for it to happen just hours after the Government’s Rwanda Bill became law makes it all the more tragic.”

He added: “Instead of hostile, headline-grabbing legislation, we need to see safe routes for those fleeing conflict and persecution, including more options for family reunion, refugee visas, and cooperation with our European neighbours.”

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, onboard a Border Force vessel following a small boat incident in the Channel. Picture date: Tuesday March 26, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Migrants. Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Migrants who cross the Channel in small boats will be eligible for deportation to Rwanda (Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA)

Following news of the Channel deaths on Tuesday morning, Home Secretary James Cleverly said that “these tragedies have to stop” and vowed he would “not accept a status quo which costs so many lives.

“This Government is doing everything we can to end this trade, stop the boats and ultimately break the business model of the evil people smuggling gangs, so they no longer put lives at risk,” he said.

Illegal migration minister Michael Tomlinson said the reports were “absolutely chilling”.

In January, five people died when dozens of migrants tried to board a small boat that overturned in freezing waters near Wimereux.

The number of people crossing the Channel has surged this year. As of 21 April, there had been 6,265 small boat arrivals compared to 5,049 in the same period last year, an increase of 24 per cent.

So far this year, 110 distress calls have been made from people crossing the Channel in small boats since the start of 2024 to a humanitarian hotline. At the same point in 2023, just 45 calls had been made.

At this point in 2022 – which was a record year for Channel crossings – just 36 distress calls had been made. In total, 214 were made that year.

This story is being updated.

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