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_ Father rescued from migrant boat tragedy in Channel 'watched four-year-old daughter drown in front of him', charity volunteer reveals - as coastguard confirm three men, a woman and the child perished when vessel capsized

_ Father rescued from migrant boat tragedy in Channel 'watched four-year-old daughter drown in front of him', charity volunteer reveals - as coastguard confirm three men, a woman and the child perished when vessel capsized

A distraught father who was rescued from a migrant boat tragedy watched his 'four-year-old daughter drown in front of him' when an 'overloaded' dinghy capsized in the Channel this morning.

Three men and a woman also died after a boat with 112 migrants on board crashed into a sandbank off Wimereux, near Calais, causing mass panic before it flipped over.

The little girl's father was rescued by emergency services and taken to Wimereux beach, where he burst into tears and fell into the arms of refugee charity workers 'in a daze'.

Dany Patoux, from the Osmose 62 refugee charity, saw the father return to the beach. He said: 'We knew the little girl well. We have photos with her, with a big smile on her face, in the hope of a better life.

'But now, everything is ruined. Her father fell into our arms right away. He was crying, in a daze. He saw his little daughter die before his eyes.'

Officials said six 'lifeless bodies' were found this morning and taken to Wimereux beach, which is between Boulogne and Calais. One person was resuscitated but five sadly died. 

French police tried to stop the flimsy craft launching from the beach in the early hours of Tuesday.

Yet the French failed to stop the migrants and were faced with migrants holding long sticks and throwing flares and firecrackers.

Once the migrants had got into the boat, the French police stopped trying to prevent them leaving, the BBC reported.  

The migrants got into difficulty when the dinghy struck a sandbank exposed by the retreating tide.

This sparked panic and caused people to stand up, which unbalanced the boat. People started falling into the water before the boat capsized, 'flinging everybody in to the very cold sea,' a French maritime prefect said.

The French Navy intervention tug the Abeille Normandie (the Normandy Bee) was scrambled and picked up 47 survivors.

They were taken back to France, where four of them were arrested.

Yet 57 people refused to leave the boat, restarted the engine and were escorted towards Britain by the French navy.

It is believed the boat arrived in Britain at around lunchtime today.  

Three search-and-rescue SAMU helicopters have been scouring the sea for survivors. 

By 11am, funeral directors could be seen collecting bodies around Boulogne, while migrants suffering from conditions such as hypothermia were taken to hospital. 

Most of the migrants on board were paying the equivalent of up to £1,000 per head for a voyage, meaning a single boat could be worth £100,000 to a smuggler. 

An investigating source based in Boulogne said 'at least five' overcrowded small boats were seen pushing from the beach at Wimereux at around 3am today.

He said: 'Weather conditions were very calm, and hundreds of people were trying to get onto the boats at first light.

'Officers had already dispersed a number of them on Monday night, and confiscated nautical equipment including inflatable boats, outboard engines, life jackets and cans of fuel.'

Despite the police operation, hundreds of men, women and children still managed to launch dinghies.

The source added: 'All the boats were overcrowded, clearly because the people smugglers who organised them wanted to make as much money as possible.

'There were more than 100 people on single boats, which is incredibly dangerous, and the reason they capsized — the boats just can't take the weight of all those people.

'There were lots of children on the boats, including a four-year-old girl who died.' 

The source said: 'Many others who were on the capsized boats were brought ashore unconscious.'

The regional governor of the Calais region, Prefet Jacques Billant, condemned the human traffickers who packed this morning's victims into the boat.

He told MailOnline: 'Some 112 souls were packed into that boat. It was unseaworthy – not properly inflated and completely overcrowded.

'To send people into the sea in a boat in that state is an act of murder.

'We arrested five people on human trafficking offences this morning.'

Prefet Billant refused to offer comment on Britain's Rwanda deportation plan.

He said simply: 'My job is to stop the people traffickers and I will use every resource at my disposal to do so.'

An emergency services spokesman said: 'Weather conditions are good, and this is one of the reasons that so many small boats set off this morning.'

A spokesman for the French coastguard said: 'The situation is ongoing and multiple search and rescue teams are in the area.'

Olivier Ternicien, president of Osmose 62, which is based at Boulogne, said: 'A child has died. A third helicopter has just arrived, we fear the worst.'

A criminal investigation into the deaths has been opened by the Boulogne-sur-Mer prosecutor. 

It came just hours after Rishi Sunak's Rwanda Bill to deter migrants from making the perilous crossing was passed in Parliament.

Rishi Sunak vowed to let nothing 'stand in our way' today as he gears up to send Chanel migrants to Rwanda within weeks after the Government's deportation plan was finally passed by Parliament.

Last year, there were 67,337 asylum applications to the UK. Of those, 29,437 came from people who arrived in small boats.

The Rwanda scheme's capacity is 200 people per year. It means if the scheme had been running last year, it would have deported less than 0.7 per cent of small boat migrants.

In terms of the cost of the journey per person, for the first 300 migrants sent to Rwanda, it will cost the Government £1.8million per head, Whitehall's official spending watchdog said.

After the incident this morning, the Prime Minister said the 'tragic' incident reported in the Channel 'underscores' the need for the deterrent effect of the Rwanda plan.

He said: 'That is just a reminder of why our plan is so important because there's a certain element of compassion about everything that we're doing.

'We want to prevent people making these very dangerous crossings. If you look at what's happening, criminal gangs are exploiting vulnerable people. They are packing more and more people into these unseaworthy dinghies.

'We've seen an enormous increase in the numbers per boat over the past few years. This is what tragically happens when they push people out to sea and that's why, for matters of compassion more than anything else, we must actually break this business model and end this unfairness of people coming to our country illegally.

'I just want to pay tribute to our Border Force and the French who have cooperated as they always do to rescue people.'

'But as I said it underscores why you need a deterrent very simply. People need to know that if they try and come here illegally they won't be able to stay, they'll be returned either to their own country or Rwanda. And I'm pleased that the Bill has passed through Parliament in the face of lots of Labour opposition, it was a late night.'

However, the furious Mayor of Wimereux said the latest tragedy was all the fault of the British.

Jean-Luc Dubaele said: 'Five dead in January, five dead in April. What are we waiting for? 'Why do the English welcome them? Why do they absolutely want to travel to England? These are the questions that need to be asked.'

He told MailOnline: 'It is Britain who are responsible for the boats setting off across the English Channel and the deaths that occur in the sea.

'The English pay us to stop the boats setting off but they look after the migrants when they arrive on their shores.

'The English give them [migrants] accommodation, food, a bank account, and let them work without regulation.

'It is the English who are responsible for every boat that sails across the Channel to England.

'This has been going on for more than 20 years – migrants crossing to England illegally.

'I have been mayor for four years and I've watched as more and more boats leave from these shores and more people die in the sea.

'This year 14 people have drowned in the sea so far. I've had enough.

'This latest plan to send migrants to Rwanda will do nothing to stop the traffic.

'If the English want to stop the migrants then they should stop looking after them. Stop the free housing, stop the free food, stop the bank accounts, stop letting them work.

'That is how to stop the boats, not making us spend all our resources [the police and the army] of stopping them set off from our beaches.'

The out-spoken mayor said he feared a huge increase in small boat crossings this summer when the French law and order authorities will be preoccupied with Olympic Games.

He said: 'I fear what will happen here during the Olympic Games. All of the Forces of Order – the police and the soldiers – will be sent to Paris. So there will be no one to stop the human traffickers. 

'There will be more boats, more migrants and more deaths. It will be a catastrophe.'

Mr Dubaele has frequently described Britain as an 'immigrant El Dorado', saying easy access to benefits, and a chance to work in the UK's black economy, attracted thousands from around the world.

Following a similar heartbreaking incident at Wimereux in January, Mr Dubaele said: 'At the political level, we will have to change the situation, and bang our fist on the table with the English.

'Migrants today want to go to England because they are well received there, they can work there without problem.'

Today's deaths followed a night of frenzied activity by French police, as they tried to stop small boats being launched towards England.

Mr Dubaele said four alleged people smugglers were arrested in he Wimereux areas.

Officers confirmed they had confiscated nautical equipment including two boats at Wimereux.

Posting a picture of them on Twitter X, they wrote: 'Last night at Wimereux, the police foiled two deliveries of nautical equipment (2 boats, 2 cans of fuel, 2 engines and life jackets) It was handed over to the police. Our objective - Save Lives'.

The same force - France's National Police - also arrested an individual transporting 14 migrants in a single vehicle.

'He was taken into custody and faces charges,' said a police spokesman.

The first asylum seekers are expected to be rounded up and detained within days after a political tussle over the controversial law finally ended in the early hours of this morning.   

The House of Lords had been engaged in an extended tussle over the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill on Monday, sending it back to the Commons five times in a bid to secure changes.

But they relented just after midnight, paving the way for it to become law and allow delayed flights to start in July, in a move Tories hope will boost the party's hopes of being re-elected later this year.

The news did not appear to have filtered across the Channel, with more migrants boats filmed leaving the French coast near Dunkirk this morning heading for Britain.

In a statement this morning the PM, who is in Poland, said: 'The passing of this legislation will allow us to do that and make it very clear that if you come here illegally, you will not be able to stay.

'Our focus is to now get flights off the ground, and I am clear that nothing will stand in our way of doing that and saving lives.'

Illegal Migration Minister Michael Tomlinson was on Good Morning Britain when it was reported that five migrants had died. He said he was 'absolutely stunned'.

GMB presenter Susanna Reid suggested the Rwanda Bill would do little to stop the issue of migrants crossing in small boats. 

She said: 'If dying in the Channel isn't going to put them off, being sent to Rwanda's not going to defer them.' 

Mr Tomlinson said the threat of going to Rwanda was a deterrent. He said: 'I'm determined to stop the boats. The deterrent effect will be up and running.'

'We are doing lots with the French. We want to do more.'

Referring to the tragedy this morning, he said: 'It is absolutely chilling to hear that. We have had fatalities now in the Channel for nine consecutive months.'

The Refugee Council described reports of deaths in the English Channel as 'devastating' and 'all the more tragic' coming just hours after the Rwanda Bill was passed in Parliament.

Enver Solomon, the council's chief executive, said: 'It is shocking to learn of the terrible loss of yet more lives in the Channel this morning. Our thoughts go out to the families and loved ones of those affected.

'This is another devastating human tragedy that could and should have been avoided - and for it to happen just hours after the Government's Rwanda Bill became law makes it all the more tragic.

'The only sustainable way to reduce dangerous journeys across the world's busiest shipping lane is for the Government to reduce the need for desperate people to take desperate actions.

'Instead of hostile, headline-grabbing legislation, we need to see safe routes for those fleeing conflict and persecution, including more options for family reunion, refugee visas, and cooperation with our European neighbours.

'We don't need costly and unworkable laws - we need a fair and humane process that upholds the right to asylum, ensuring refugees are treated with dignity and respect.'

It follows five migrants dying while trying to get to Britain on January 14. Some 29,000 people reached the UK in small boats in 2023, despite the British government saying that stopping them was a priority.

In August last year, six people died after a boat carrying migrants sank in the Channel off the French coast, while n November 2021, at least 27 migrants died after a dinghy sank while heading to the UK – the highest recorded number of deaths from a single incident.


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