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Three people feared dead after small boats 'incident' in English Channel

Stock photo shows a rescue boat making its way towards migrants travelling in an inflatable boat across the English Channel (AFP via Getty Images)
Stock photo shows a rescue boat making its way towards migrants travelling in an inflatable boat across the English Channel (AFP via Getty Images)

Three people are feared dead after a boat carrying migrants got into trouble in the English Channel.

French maritime authorities said the boat had 50 migrants on board when it got into difficulty off the French coast on Wednesday.

Those on board told rescuers three people had gone overboard.

Searches with French navy boats and a helicopter found one person who couldn't be revived. Two other people are still missing, the French coastguard said..

A statement from the French coastguard said the French Navy had carried out four rescue operations in the Channel on Wednesday, using boats and a helicopter, assisting around 180 people.

According to reports, Patrick Leleu, deputy prosecutor at the judicial court of Boulogne-sur-Mer, said: "I can confirm the death of three migrants who fell into the water this afternoon off the coast of Cap Gris Nez. The investigation is ongoing."

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We can confirm there has been an incident in the Channel involving a small boat in French waters.

“French authorities are leading the response and investigation. We will not be commenting further at this stage.”

A search and rescue operation was continuing on Wednesday evening.

This week, Home Office figures showed that more than 2,000 migrants have arrived in the UK so far this year after crossing the strait between England and France.

The number of Channel arrivals is 32% lower than the total recorded this time last year (2,953) but 49% higher than the total at this stage in 2022 (1,482).

Some 29,437 migrants arrived in the UK after making the crossing in 2023, down 36% on a record 45,774 arrivals in 2022.

The Home Office said there were no new arrivals on Tuesday or Monday this week, but 290 asylum seekers arrived across five boats on Sunday.

Home Secretary James Cleverly was in the US this week where he made a speech focused on tackling unauthorised migration.

During the address in New York, the Conservative Cabinet minister said the UK's goodwill towards migrants was "not a bottomless font" as he argued wealthy nations must help developing ones avoid "haemorrhaging" people.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made stopping the boats one of his top five pledges to the electorate in January last year.