France charges four over Channel migrant deaths, says judicial source

French prosecutors on Wednesday charged four people with involuntary manslaughter over the deaths of at least six migrants whose boat sank in the English Channel last weekend, a judicial source told AFP.

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The suspects, two Iraqis and two Sudanese, were detained shortly after the vessel carrying around 65 people capsized early Saturday, leaving six Afghans dead, the source said, confirming a report in French daily Le Monde.

They also face charges of criminal conspiracy for illegal immigration, with the Iraqis suspected of belonging to a human trafficking network.

Most of those on board the vessel were Afghans along with some Sudanese and “a few minors”, French authorities said. The British and French coast guards rescued 59 people, but the death toll remains provisional.

Investigators determined that an engine breakdown led to the vessel’s capsizing in the choppy waters of the busy shipping lane, the Paris prosecutor’s office said, adding that most of the passengers had no life jackets.

A commercial vessel discovered the shipwreck and alerted authorities, with the French coast guard rescuing 38 people and the British 23, prosecutors said.

The death toll in the latest tragedy is the highest since November 2021 when 27 migrants lost their lives in the Channel, sparking tension between Britain and France over who needed to do more to prevent such disasters.

French authorities have stepped up patrols and other deterrent measures after London agreed in March to send Paris hundreds of millions of euros annually towards the effort.

More than 100,000 migrants have crossed the Channel on small boats from France to southeast England since Britain began publicly recording the arrivals in 2018, official figures revealed last Friday.


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