Girl, 7, drowns as migrants attempt to cross Channel to UK

By John Mercury March 3, 2024

A seven-year-old girl has drowned after a migrant boat capsized in northern France.

The child was among 16 on board the boat when it capsized shortly after it was launched in the Canal de l’Aa in Watten, around 20 miles away from Calais.

She was with her three siblings, pregnant mother, and father, local officials said, with surviving members of the family taken to hospital in nearby Dunkirk on Sunday.

The canal leads to the North Sea and is a route regularly used by migrants attempting to cross the Channel to the UK.

A map shows Watten in relation to Calais and the English Channel
Image:
A map shows Watten in relation to Calais and the English Channel

The boat, “probably stolen”, according to Bertrand Gaume, prefect of the Hauts-de-France region, was also carrying a couple, two men, and six young children.

None of them are in a life-threatening condition, he added.

A facility has been set up at the town hall in Watten for those rescued to get shelter and food.

A UK government spokesperson said: “This morning, the French authorities responded to an incident in Watten, Hauts-de-France, which resulted in a child losing their life.

“Our thoughts are with the victim’s family and friends at this time, while they process this devastating loss of life.

“We will continue to work to stop the boats, working closely with France to prevent these dangerous crossings. We remain committed to breaking the cycle, ending exploitation by gangs and preventing further loss of life.”

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