Seven-year-old girl killed in English Channel crossing attempt | Migration News

Deadly incident is the third fatal English Channel crossing attempt this year.

A seven-year-old girl has drowned after a small boat carrying 16 people trying to get to the United Kingdom capsized in northern France, according to French authorities.

The boat overturned on Sunday after the passengers boarded it in the Aa Canal, several kilometres from the waterway’s opening into the English Channel, the prefecture in France’s Nord department said.

Firefighters and policemen rushed to the scene after a witness raised an alarm.

The local authority said in a statement that the vehicle “was not appropriately sized to carry so many people”.

It said that the “apparently stolen” boat was carrying the girl’s parents, who were travelling with three more of their children. Another couple, two men and six young children were also on the boat, and all of them have been taken to hospital in Dunkirk.

This is the third fatal crossing attempt this year. In January, five people including a 14-year-old Syrian boy were killed as they tried to board a boat south of the port city of Calais in freezing temperatures.

A man carries a child as migrants arrive at the Port of Dover, after being rescued while crossing the English Channel, in Dover, Britain, June 14, 2022 [File: Matthew Childs/Reuters]

Last week, a 22-year-old Turkish man died after falling overboard into the sea off Calais, while another two people went missing. An Eritrean citizen suspected to be part of a gang has been charged with manslaughter in that case and has been held in custody since Saturday.

Rising channel crossings have proven to be a thorny issue between France and Britain. Boat arrivals to the UK jumped from 299 in 2018 to 45,755 in 2022, according to the think-tank UK in a Changing Europe (UKICE).

At least 671 people have made the crossing so far this year. A total of 12 people were killed trying to cross the channel last year, while some 29,437 reached Britain, according to figures from London’s interior ministry. Most arrivals were from Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Eritrea and Iraq.

France and the UK signed a pact in March 2023 that provides for 541 million euros ($585m) in British funding for hundreds of French police to prevent migrants from making the risky journey.

British Home Secretary James Cleverly told reporters last month that the cooperation was successful, and that the countries would “expand upon” it. There was a 36 percent reduction in crossings in 2023.

European Union countries arrested 19 Germany-based people smugglers operating a highly sophisticated network during a major raid in February. The group charged 1,000-3,000 euros ($1,080-$3,242) per passenger on an inflatable boat. Authorities said 19 people were arrested.

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