15 arrested over 2021 Channel migrant disaster that left 27 dead

France arrests 15 and charges one with manslaughter and people-trafficking over 2021 Channel migrant drowning disaster that left 27 dead

  • 15 people have been arrested in relation to 27 migrants drowning in 2021
  • The tragedy occurred in November off the coast of France in the English Channel
  • So far one person has been charged with manslaughter and people-trafficking

French police have arrested 15 people and charged one in relation to the death of 27 migrants who drowned in the English Channel in 2021.

One has been charged with manslaughter and people-trafficking, and the nine others were to be taken before a judge who will decide whether to charge them.

Police detained the 15 suspects in an overnight operation Sunday to Monday as part of their months-long investigation into the disaster, releasing five of them without charges.

The death of the 27 in late November last year is believed to be the deadliest incident to have occurred in the English Channel.

Among the 27 – aged seven to 47 – were 16 Iraqi Kurds, four Afghans, three Ethiopians, one Somali, one Egyptian and one Vietnamese migrant.

A picture of the flimsy and dangerous dinghy that sank off Calais in November 2021, killing 27 people including seven women – one of whom was pregnant – and three children. 15 people have now been arrested in relation to this incident

Many of the migrants who were on the inflatable dinghy last November were young men from Afghanistan (pictured)

French police made 15 arrests over Sunday and Monday, but five people were released without charge (pictured French officers patrolling a beach near Calais) 

A French sea rescue boat was seen carrying the bodies of migrants recovered off the coast of Calais after the tragedy which saw at least 27 migrants, including five women and a girl, drown as they tried to cross the Channel 


Boris Johnson (left) told Emmanuel Macron (right) that British boots are needed on the ground in France to stop evil slave gangs ‘getting away with murder’ after at the 27 migrants drowned in the deadliest-ever Channel crossing

Migrants were seen crossing the channel the very next day after 27 people drowned the day before

Only two people survived the disaster, which sparked tension between the British and French governments.

President Emmanuel Macron vowed France would not allow the Channel to become a ‘cemetery’.

France urged Britain to help more with cracking down on people-smuggling gangs, with Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin saying: ‘We need intelligence. Responses to requests from the French police are not always given.’

The rebuke followed British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s proposal to send back all migrants and asylum seekers who land in England to France, a move rejected by Paris. 

Following Britain’s departure from the European Union, it does not have a returns treaty with France or the wider EU.

The spat added to a litany of post-Brexit rows between the two sides, which also include a dispute on fishing rights in the Channel which at times threatened to spill over into a full-blown trade war.

Despite a more conciliatory tone since, and promises of more cooperation, the number of migrants seeking to cross the Channel from France to England surged in the first half of this year, according to the French interior ministry.

Almost 2,800 migrants have been intercepted crossing the Channel this month – more than the entire figure for 2020

Almost 13,000 migrants have crossed the Channel so far this year

From January 1 to June 13, there were 777 attempted crossings involving 20,132 people, up 68 per cent on the same period last year, it said.

The ministry said French security forces had prevented most of the crossings, with 61.39 per cent of the attempts thwarted in the first half, up 4.2 per cent on last year.

The figures for all of 2021 had already been a record but the latest statistics show this could be beaten if current trends continue, as summer weather settles in that encourages more crossings.

Some 52,000 people tried to cross in 2021, with 28,000 of the migrants succeeding, according to the French authorities.

Yesterday, June 29, the Ministry of Defence recorded 269 migrants who crossed the channel in small boats. 

The numbers come as the UK seeks to toughen its policy against arrivals.

Britain has repeatedly accused the French authorities of not doing enough to stop the crossings.

What is the Nationality and Borders Act and how will it impact cross channel migrants 

Under the Nationality and Borders Act (NABA) which comes into force on Tuesday June 28, anyone caught piloting a boat carrying migrants in the Channel could face life behind bars.

The measures, which received Royal Assent in April, include tougher penalties for those who pilot a small boat or smuggle migrants into the UK by other dangerous or illegal means, with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Also the maximum penalty for illegally entering the UK or overstaying a visa has increased from six months to four years’ imprisonment.

Those who did not come to the UK directly, did not claim without delay, or did not show good cause for their illegal entry or presence, may be given a shorter grant of permission to stay with a minimum of 30 months instead of five years.

Immigration officers have also been given new powers to search containers for illegal migrants and foreign national offenders held in UK prisons can now be removed 12 months before the end of their custodial sentence.

Home Secretary Priti Patel, pictured here in Parliament, said the new rules were part of the government’s plan to ‘take back control’ of the nation’s borders 

Also, the Government has powers to limit visas for those from countries which pose a ‘risk to international peace and security and those that refuse to take back their own citizens who have no right to be in the UK.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: ‘This is one of the most crucial milestones in delivering on our promise to the British public to take back control of our borders.

‘While there is no single solution to the global migration crisis, these reforms which come into effect today play a vital role in overhauling the broken asylum system as we put our New Plan for Immigration into action.

‘We will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that we offer protection and sanctuary to those in genuine need; but these new measures will enable us to crack down on abuse of the system and the evil people-smugglers, who will now be subject to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment as a result of this law coming into force.’

The NABA also includes changes to laws that previously denied British nationality to some children of British Overseas Territory citizens.

Previously, women with British Overseas Territory citizenship could not pass on British nationality to children born outside the UK and its territories before January 1 1983.

Similarly, children born to unmarried British Overseas Territory fathers before July 1 2006 could not acquire British nationality through their father.

Rules requiring children born outside an Overseas Territory to British Overseas Territory citizen parents to be registered within 12 months of their birth in order to qualify for citizenship are being scrapped.

In a controversial policy, the UK is planning to deport illegal migrants, including those who arrive across the Channel, to Rwanda under an agreement with the African nation.

However, the first flight earlier this month was cancelled after a last-minute intervention by the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which enraged London.

The Nationality and Borders Act came into force this week, introducing the tougher sentencing for those who smuggle migrants into the UK – up from 14 years imprisonment.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: ‘This is one of the most crucial milestones in delivering on our promise to the British public to take back control of our borders.

‘While there is no single solution to the global migration crisis, these reforms which come into effect today play a vital role in overhauling the broken asylum system as we put our New Plan for Immigration into action.

‘We will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that we offer protection and sanctuary to those in genuine need; but these new measures will enable us to crack down on abuse of the system and the evil people-smugglers, who will now be subject to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment as a result of this law coming into force.’ 

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