A 16-year-old boy who disappeared at sea has been found dead on a beach near Calais, a French minister has confirmed. The 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-metre dinghy using shovels as oars when they got into difficulty, said Boulogne-sur-Mer’s 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’.
The teenager’s body was found at a Sangatte beach near Calais (Picture: Getty) The tragedy comes after Kent County Council said it had come to the ‘unthinkable’ situation of reaching its capacity to take care of asylum-seeking children (Picture: EPA) 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 Channel has reached record numbers, causing tension between British and French governments over their responsibilities in the matter. 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 criticised the move as a ‘declaration of maritime war’. Record numbers of people have made the dangerous journey to seek safety in recent months (Picture: Getty) Natalie Elphicke, MP for Dover and Deal said today: ‘This is both shocking and sad. I have been warning for months about the risk of further loss of life on these dangerous journeys across the English Channel.
‘This latest tragedy underlines that it is essential to bring an urgent end to these perilous small boat crossings.’ This morning in Dover, children were among more than 50 refugees who arrived by boat. They were taken into the Kent port aboard a lifeboat and a Border Force vessel.
It comes after Kent County Council announced earlier this week that it had reached its capacity to take care of unaccompanied children seeking asylum. The Council said it had tried its best to avoid this ‘unthinkable situation’, adding: ‘This is a huge challenge for Kent, but a relatively small challenge to solve nationally, and should have been resolved before now.’ Human rights campaigners have called the situation a ‘scandal’ and a ‘political failure’ (Picture: AFP) Director of not-for-profit organisation Detention Action, Bella Sankey, described the situation as a ‘scandal’ and said it ‘should be a source of deep shame for this Government’.
She added: ‘This is a political failure, pure and simple. The Government must urgently U-turn and ensure that vulnerable children are immediately taken into care rather than detained in prison-like facilities.’
More than 4,700 migrants have reached the UK by small boat this year, according to an analysis by PA