Two children have died as ship carrying migrants sinks near Dunkirk

French officials have said that two children, aged five and eight, and two adults have died after a boat carrying migrants sank near Dunkirk.

Dunkirk harbour, near where the ship carrying migrants sank earlier today.
Dunkirk harbour, near where the ship carrying migrants sank earlier today.

The BBC has reported that a large search and rescue operation began earlier today after the vessel was seen in difficulty near Dunkirk.

In addition to the four deaths, fifteen others have been taken to hospital, French officials said.

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Home Secretary Priti Patel, said: “The tragic news highlights the dangers that come with crossing the Channel.

"I will do everything I can to stop callous criminals exploiting vulnerable people."

According to the Prefecture of the Nord department, the search operation is ongoing off the coast of Dunkirk.

The English Channel saw rough weather conditions throughout the day, with a gale warning issued overnight by the Met Office.

Dover MP Natalie Elphicke said: "[It was] terrible that tragedy has struck in the Channel again.

"People traffickers have no regard for life, no matter how old or young."

The vessel was first spotted in difficulties by a passing sailboat at about 09:30 local time, which alerted French authorities.

Four French vessels, one Belgian helicopter and a French fishing boat have been taking part in the rescue operation.

The public prosecutor in Dunkirk has opened an investigation to identify the cause of the incident.

More than 7,400 migrants have reached the UK in small boats this year alone, up from 1,825 in 2019.

The UK government has called for boats to be stopped at sea and returned to France and has vowed to make the crossings "unviable".

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