Updated April 24th, 2024 at 07:32 IST

5 Asylum Seekers Die While Crossing English Channel to UK

This comes just hours after the UK government approved a bill to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda

Reported by: Digital Desk
Five people died while trying to cross the English Channel from France to the U.K. just hours after the British govt approved a migrant bill to deport some of those who entered the country illegally | Image:AP
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Paris: Five asylum seekers died while crossing the English Channel from France to Britain in an overcrowded small boat on Tuesday.

This comes just hours after the UK government approved a bill to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda.

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The boat carrying 112 people set out from Wimereux, about 32km (20 miles) southwest of the French port of Calais, to cross one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

However, rescuers picked up 49 people, and four were taken to hospital, but others stayed on the boat and continued their journey to Britain.

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Local prefect Jacques Billant said, "A tragedy occurred on a boat (/topic/boat) overloaded with migrants early this morning. We deplore the deaths of five people, a seven-year-old girl, a woman and three men."

"The engine stopped a few hundred metres away from the shore, and several people fell into the water," Billant added.

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The French coastguard said that 58 people stayed on board and it was still searching for any other survivors.

"They did not want to be rescued. They managed to restart the engine and headed towards Britain," Billant said.

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Reportedly, over 6,000 people have arrived in Britain this year on small, overloaded boats that risk being lashed by waves as they try to reach British shores.

The UK government has been trying for two years to get approval for a divisive policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, and finally, on Tuesday, the UK parliament passed legislation overnight to allow the deportations. 

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 UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that he expected the first flights to take off in 10 to 12 weeks, giving time for further legal challenges from charities, campaigners and unions. 

Sunak further said that the government was acting out of compassion, wanting to prevent people smugglers from pushing vulnerable people out to sea. 

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"They are packing more and more people into these unseaworthy dinghies. You've seen an enormous increase in the numbers over the past few years," he said. "This is what tragically happens."

Under the Rwanda scheme, people who have arrived in Britain in an irregular way after January 1, 2022, will be sent to Rwanda, about 6,400km (4,000 miles) away. 

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More than 50,000 people have arrived since that date, according to official figures. 

However, the United Nations refugee agency and the Council of Europe called on the UK on Tuesday to rethink its plans over fears that the bill could damage international cooperation on tackling the global migration crisis.

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Published April 24th, 2024 at 07:32 IST