Channel deaths: Government investigates mass drowning

The government has mandated an impartial investigation into the bulk of migrants who died in the English Channel. When a vessel capsized in 2021, a minimum of 27 individuals died, three of whom were minors and a pregnant woman.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper stated that an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the fatalities would provide the victims' families with the necessary information.

It follows two recommendations made by an investigation into the deadliest migrant boat incident in British history.

According to a report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB), the absence of specialised aircraft for aerial surveillance of the Dover Strait hindered the United Kingdom's emergency response.

Chief inspector of marine incidents Andrew Moll stated that on the evening of November 24, the night of the sinking, numerous vessels attempted to cross the Dover Straight, and many of them made distress calls.

He stated that it had been "extremely difficult" for the coastguard to determine the number, locations, and distress levels of the vessels attempting to cross.

Mr. Moll further stated that as the rate of action regarding the discovered migrant boats quickened, the dire situation of the afflicted vessels became obscured, and regrettably, the victims remained undiscovered until a passing fishing vessel spotted them later that day.

Additionally, according to the MAIB's report, the Coastguard lacked adequate personnel at its base to correlate the information gathered from the plethora of emergency calls received throughout the night.

It was stated that this may have contributed to the erroneous belief that Border Patrol personnel had rescued those on board the vessel.

Mr. Moll stated that the incident occurred as the United Kingdom's response to the migrant crisis was in a state of evolution, but that the report acknowledged substantial modifications had occurred since then.

By overcrowding 33 migrants onto the vessel, the MAIB stated that the individuals who facilitated the attempted crossing had placed the passengers in grave danger.


Additionally, the report concluded that the vessel the migrants boarded in order to cross the border was completely inadequate. It has been suggested that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Border Force establish protocols to guarantee the feasibility of conducting efficient Dover Strait surveillance operations in the absence of aviation assets. Furthermore, it was suggested that the Coastguard collaborate with the French authorities in order to enhance the exchange of information pertaining to the crossing of migrants.


After the sinking, four individuals remain unaccounted and only two have survived. Hundreds of gallant responders from HM Coastguard and other UK agencies, including volunteers, remain available around the clock to assist in search and rescue operations involving small vessels in the Channel, as stated by the transport secretary.

Following the MAIB's report, "the inquiry I have declared today will enable a comprehensive and impartial investigation into the circumstances surrounding the fatalities to occur."


The Coastguard stated in a statement that it saved lives under the most perilous circumstances conceivable and that the calamity served as a poignant reminder of the magnitude of the mission it had accomplished. The French government declined to participate in the preliminary inquiry.