More than 20 migrants feared to be dead after boat capsizes in Channel
Twenty-seven people trying to reach Britain in an inflatable dinghy have drowned in the Channel.
The death toll could rise further amid reports there were more than 50 people on the boat when it capsized. French and British authorities are in the area searching for survivors.
Jean Castex, the French prime minister, said: “The shipwreck in the Channel is a tragedy. My thoughts go to the numerous people who have died and who are injured. [They are] victims of criminal traffickers who exploit their distress and their misery.”
Speaking to reporters at Downing Street, Boris Johnson said: "I just want to say that I’m shocked and appalled and deeply saddened by the loss of life at sea in the Channel.
"I think the details are still coming in but more than 20 people have lost their lives.
"My thoughts and sympathies are first of all with the victims and their families. It’s an appalling thing that they have suffered.
"But I also want to say that this disaster underscores how dangerous it is to cross the Channel in this way."
Conservative MP for Dover and Deal, Natalie Elphicke, said the incident was an "absolute tragedy".
She said: "As winter is approaching the seas will get rougher, the water colder, the risk of even more lives tragically being lost greater. That's why stopping these dangerous crossings is the humanitarian and right thing to do."
Record numbers of migrants have been trying to make the crossing this year. It’s thought that more than 23,500 have reached the UK by boat so far in 2021, triple the number who made the crossing in 2020.
Recently up to 1,000 people have been trying to get across on a daily basis.
Natacha Bouchart, the mayor of Calais, said: “It’s the sort of human drama that I have feared. I have been alerting for weeks and months . . . that this sort of drama was bound to happen.”
She said migrants paid people smugglers between €2,700 and €7,000 to make the crossings, making it a highly profitable business for “mafia-style” criminal operations