THE "floating death trap" raft that sank with the loss of 27 migrants including a pregnant woman andd three kids was hit by a container ship, rescuers fear.
Horrific details of the disaster began to emerge today – as at least two more dangerously crowded rafts set sail from the French coast for the UK.
This morning about 40 people packed into the two boats, reports the BBC.
Before first light, a number of shivering migrants were seen being led ashore at Dover after being rescued by the RNLI.
Last night four suspected people smugglers who are alleged to have organised Wednesday’s fatal crossing were placed in custody facing manslaughter charges.
Just two men made a "miracle escape" from the flimsy inflatable which mainly contained so far unidentified Iraqi Kurds and Somalians who had paid the equivalent of up to £6,000 each.
Very few of them were wearing life jackets, and most are thought to have succumbed to hypothermia in the cold Channel.
Seven of them were women, including one expecting a baby, while three children were also among the dead.
Autopsies will take place in Lille "over the next few days", said Carole Etienne, the city’s public prosecutor, who is leading a criminal enquiry into the tragedy.
The survivors – one an Iraqi Kurd and another a Somalian – have indicated that a container ship collided with their boat, causing it to deflate, according to rescuers who were first on the scene.
Bernard Barron, president of the SNSM rescue service in Calais, spoke of "group murder".
It comes as:
A French fisherman raised the alarm at 2pm after finding 15 bodies floating off Calais.
- Boris Johnson accuses French of allowing migrant smugglers to ‘get away with murder’
- Inflatable dinghy that sank in Channel, killing 27, was ‘frail’ and like a ‘paddling pool’
- France warned a year ago that turning a blind eye to Channel crossings would create a graveyard at sea
He described how the "floating death trap" meant to carry no more than ten people "was completely deflated when we found it".
Mr Barron said: "Migrants are forced into the boat, and their feet are in water and fuel. These are unimaginable conditions.
"Often only women and children have life jackets, and these boats don't have navigation lights or radar receivers."
Charles Devos, one of the first SNSM rescuers to reach the victims, said: "We’ve seen the boats becoming more and more overcrowded.
"The inflatables are only designed for ten people, but more than 50 have been packed on board, turning them into floating death traps.
"We always thought that, one day or another, they were going to collide with a container ship or a ferry."
Rescuers believe the boat left Loon-Plage, near Dunkirk, on Wednesday morning and collided with the container ship at the limit of French territorial waters.
The two men "made a miracle escape", said Mr Devos, but their condition in hospital in Calais was said to be "extremely serious".
In was the deadliest ever day of the crossing crisis and led to a bitter blame game between French and British ministers.
Those arrested – whose names have not been released – are all men who were stopped as they fled towards the Belgium border on Wednesday night.
They are expected to appear before local magistrates this week for a fast track trial.
All are thought to be part of a criminal gang and they face charges of manslaughter and "assisting illegal immigration in an organised gang".
Jean-Marc Puissesseau, president of the ports of Calais and Boulogne, also accused the smugglers of being murderers, saying: "The poor migrants spent months and months coming here, and died so close to their dream."
The tragedy happened as migrants rushed to make the dangerous crossing ahead of winter storms which are expected to sweep in this weekend.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin disclosed that 255 migrants reached the UK on Wednesday.
These included about 40 who were allowed into the sea near Boulogne as French cops watched on from their car, appearing to do nothing.
They landed at around 2.45pm in Dungeness.
President Emmanuel Macron said France would not allow the Channel to become a "cemetery".
PM Jean Castex spoke of a "terrible tragedy," adding: "My thoughts are with the many missing and wounded, victims of criminal smugglers who exploit their distress and their misery."
And Natacha Bouchart, the Mayor of Calais, said: "I have been warning for weeks and months that this sort of tragedy was bound to happen."
She accused Britain’s lax benefits system of encouraging immigration.
She added: "The British government has imposed immigration control on our territory for the last 20 years.
"It has never had the courage to control this immigration back home. You have to react, react quickly to make it all stop."
Prime Minister Boris Johnson meanwhile accused France of failing to do enough to stop migrants from crossing the Channel.
He said that the smuggling gangs were "literally getting away with murder".
Some 27,000 migrants have crossed the Channel this year – far eclipsing the roughly 8,000 who came in 2020 and 1,000 who arrived in 2019.
More than 4,000 have made the journey in November so-far, the most ever in a single month, and the surge shows no sign of slowing down.
MAYBE now, with more than 30 migrants tragically dead in the Channel, politicians on both sides of it will finally act.
Maybe the French will end their infantile anti-Brexit games, order their police to get off their backsides and stop these treacherous dinghies setting sail.
That cops should sit idly by yesterday while terrified and freezing children were packed into potentially lethal boats wasn’t just shameful. It was inhumane.
Maybe our own Government will put in place an asylum system fit for purpose, not our chaotic, lax regime which acts as a magnet for illegal immigration.
The wicked people-smugglers of course bear ultimate responsibility. France must send an army of cops to lock them up, as the UK paid them £54million to do.
But these evil gangs only have a trade because of ineptitude and a lack of will on both sides. And because the EU’s open borders let migrants cross Europe and reach the French coast unhindered.
Hundreds a day now risk the crossing knowing that if they succeed they will be fed, housed and never removed.
Unless both sides act, more horrific and appalling deaths are grimly inevitable.
WARNINGS FELL ON DEAF EARS
FRANCE was warned a year ago that turning a blind eye to Channel crossings would create a graveyard at sea.
And it was echoed in Calais last night when the mayor accused Paris of ignoring their pleas for help while record numbers made the perilous 21-mile journey this year.
Nearly 26,000 migrants have arrived in 2021 and drownings have been on the increase. More than 6,000 people have crossed in the past three weeks, ten times the number for November 2020.
On November 11, a record 1,185 landed in a single day. In contrast only 1,844 people arrived in all of 2019. Deaths have also been on the rise with at least ten migrants known to have drowned in the past three weeks.
A year ago, charity Save the Children warned: “The English Channel must not become a graveyard for children.”
Last night, Calais mayor Natalie Bouchart hit out at President Macron. She said: “It’s been weeks and months since I warned about this situation.”
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