The young teenager, who was a refugee from Sudan, fell overboard on Tuesday night while making the dangerous journey in a rubber dinghy to seek safety in the UK. The boy and his friend were reportedly crossing the Channel in a one-meter dinghy using shovels as oars when they got into difficulty, said deputy prosecutor Philippe Sabatier, reported France Bleu.
His body was found on a beach in Sangatte this morning, confirmed Marlene Schiappa, who is in charge of citizenship in the French government. An investigation has been launched into his death.
The boy’s friend, who is also a child was found alive on the beach but ‘in a state of shock’, according to reports. He was not injured and was taken to a Calais hospital. Schiappa added that the ‘unbearable’ news highlights the urgent need to crack-down on smugglers who take advantage of the distress of human beings’.
Home Secretary Priti Patel, who has vowed to make the route across the channel ‘unviable’, said the death is ‘an upsetting and tragic loss of a young life’. She added: ‘This horrendous incident serves as a brutal reminder of the abhorrent criminal gangs and people smugglers who exploit vulnerable people. Working together we are determined to stop them.’
The tragedy comes as the number of migrants crossing the Calais Channel has reached record numbers, causing tension between British and French governments over their responsibilities in the matter.
Downing street No 10 has come under pressure to control the situation, following criticism from Labour and human rights campaigners saying its handling ‘lacks competence and compassion’. Patel appointed a former Royal Marine to the role of ‘clandestine Channel threat commander’, building on her ambition to ‘completely cut’ the route for those trying to get to the UK. The mayor of Calais criticized the move as a ‘declaration of maritime war’. Read here