A CHILD is feared to be the fifth migrant who died yesterday when a boat capsized in the Channel moments after a blood-curdling cry for “help”.
Four victims, including two kids aged five and eight, were confirmed dead after the tragedy off the French port of Dunkirk on Tuesday morning.
A huge rescue operation has resumed this morning to find the body of another child who is feared to have died.
Yesterday, a chilling Mayday radio plea, received from a small fishing boat just a few miles off the French coast, begged: “Help us, we’re sinking!”
Their overcrowded ‘day fishing dinghy’ sank at around 9.30am in “very bad weather conditions including high wind and rain,” said local official Hervé Tourmente.
Some of the 15 survivors recovering in hospital from hypothermia have since indicated that a child is still missing after falling overboard, Mr Tourmente added.
All those involved were Iranian Kurds who were on the last stage of their journey to claim asylum in the UK.
The dead were a man and a woman and the two children – none of whom have yet been formally identified.
All are believed to have been staying in the Calais area before heading off to try and get to England in the early hours of yesterday.
As a search-and-rescue operation resumed today, French police were trying to find suspected people smugglers responsible for launching the small boat in dangerous conditions.
Sébastien Piève, the Dunkirk prosecutor, said a criminal enquiry was focusing on suspected manslaughter, causing injuries and “assisting people in an irregular situation.”
Mr Piève said no suspects had yet been caught, but seven survivors were in custody “for questioning” over possible connections with a people smuggling gang.
They charge up to £1000 a head for a place in a small boat to get to the UK in a trade that regularly causes death and injury.
The French authorities confirmed they were in touch with their British counterparts as part of the enquiry.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “My thoughts are with the loved ones of those who tragically lost their lives in the Channel.
“We will do all we can to crack down on the ruthless criminal gangs who prey on vulnerable people by facilitating these dangerous journeys.”
More than 7,400 people have arrived in the UK in small boats this year – almost four times as many as in 2019, with a record 416 arriving on a single day, September 2nd.
Official data further reveals that in the year to June 2020, there were 3,402 applications for asylum from children aged 17 or under.
The tragedy has been described as the worst of its kind to have taken place between France and the UK since migrants began using makeshift boats to get to Britain.
In 2019, four migrants drowned in individual incidents and before today, three migrants had died making the perilous crossing this year.
Just over a week ago, a migrant was found on the beach at Sangatte, next to Calais.
Next to him was a life vest – one typical of the kind that migrants wear as they pack rigid inflatable dinghies bound for the coast of England.
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And in August a Sudanese migrant who could not swim drowned after the toy blow-up boat he was using to try and get to Britain was accidentally punctured by a shovel being used as a makeshift oar.
The horrific accident led to the victim, who carried identity papers and a mobile phone, tipping into the English Channel just off Calais.
The latest drownings follow a war of words between France and Britain over who should be preventing migrants making the perilous sea journey between the two countries.
If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please call the Samaritans for free on 116123.
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