Migrant deaths: Boris Johnson to chair emergency Cobra meeting after at least 20 drown in Channel

Several others are thought to have suffered injuries, after the migrant boat sank off the French coast

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson will chair a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee in response to the migrant deaths in the English Channel, Downing Street said.

More than 20 people have died after their boat sank in the English Channel, French media has reported.

Migrant boat capsizes in English Channel.
Migrant boat capsizes in English Channel.

Boris Johnson said the deaths in the Channel were “appalling” and “underscored how dangerous it is” to cross from France.

Speaking to reporters at Downing Street, he 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.”

GB News Home Affairs Editor Mark White told the Afternoon Agenda: "There were around 20 migrants in the water.

"When we went out there this morning, it was pretty rough out there.

"Absolutely freezing cold, as you would imagine.

Over 25,000 migrants have successfully crossed the Channel into the UK this year, three times the amount that made it in 2020.

France’s prime minister said the shipwreck on Wednesday was a “tragedy” and his thoughts were with “victims of criminal smugglers who exploit their distress and injury”.

French politician Franck Dhersin said a boat with more than 50 people aboard had sunk in the middle of the Channel.

Mr Dhersin said on Twitter that at least 24 people had died in the capsizing while others had survived.

A rescue operation is under way in the Channel by air and sea as French and British authorities search for anyone still in the water.

The emergency search was sparked when a fishing boat sounded the alarm earlier on Wednesday after spotting several people at sea off the coast of France.

French prime minister Jean Castex said: “My thoughts are with the many missing and injured, victims of criminal smugglers who exploit their distress and injury.”

French interior minister Gerald Darmanin confirmed on Twitter that people had died but did not give a number.

Dover MP Natalie Elphicke said: “This is an absolute tragedy. It underlines why saving lives at sea starts by stopping the boats entering the water in the first place.

“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.”

A number of people are also believed to have reached Britain in small boats on Wednesday, with people seen being brought ashore in Dover by immigration officials.

The Dover Strait is the busiest shipping lane in the world and has claimed many lives of people trying to cross to Britain in inflatable dinghies.

More than 25,700 people have made the dangerous journey to the UK in small boats this year – three times the total for the whole of 2020, according to data compiled by the PA news agency.