Sudanese boy, 16, drowns in English Channel while trying to reach UK

19 August 2020, 11:44 | Updated: 19 August 2020, 12:43

Migrants being brought ashore in Kent last week - file image
Migrants being brought ashore in Kent last week - file image. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

A teenage boy has been found dead on a beach in France after disappearing in the English Channel while trying to cross to the UK.

The 16-year-old Sudanese migrant was found dead on a beach near Calais, a French minister said.

Marlene Schiappa, who is in charge of citizenship in France's government, said the teenager was found on the beach of Sangatte on Tuesday morning.

The tragedy comes as migrants making the perilous crossing of the English Channel has been a focus of the UK Government amid a record number of journeys.

Home Secretary Priti Patel, who has pledged to make the route "unviable", said the death is "an upsetting and tragic loss of a young life".

"This horrendous incident serves as a brutal reminder of the abhorrent criminal gangs and people smugglers who exploit vulnerable people," she added.

"Working together we are determined to stop them."

Ms Shiappa also said the death highlighted the need to tackle the smugglers.

"Immense sadness: A 16-year-old Sudanese migrant who disappeared in the sea last night was found dead in the beach in Sangatte this morning.

"This unbearable drama mobilizes us still against smugglers who take advantage of the plight of human beings."

On Sunday many more migrants including a young child were brought to shore in Dover. 65 were taken to the UK on Saturday.

Yesterday Kent County Council announced it had reached capacity and could not take into its care any more small children arriving on boats.

New migrant children arriving unaccompanied in Kent will remain in the care of Border Force in Dover.

They will remain there until they can be transferred into the care of another UK local authority with capacity to safely care for them.

The Home Office said unaccompanied migrant children would be cared for in the Kent Intake Unit at Dover, which it described as a "processing centre".

A record number of migrants have made the crossing to the south coast in August. As of the 17th, more than 1,200 people had made the journey.

112 people were intercepted on Sunday and 65 on Saturday, with over 4,400 people making the journey so far this year.

On August 6, a total of 235 migrants were intercepted crossing the channel, a record for a single day.

Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, said: "It is devastating to learn that a child has now died in the Channel while trying to seek safety in the UK.

"This is a horrifying but wholly expected death.

"We have repeatedly warned Priti Patel it was only a matter of time before her toxic policy to deny safe and legal routes to the UK would cost lives.

"This death lies firmly at her door. She should consider her position."

Clare Moseley, founder of charity Care4Calais, said: "We are absolutely devastated by the unnecessary death of this child.

"We can only imagine the fear he felt and our hearts go out to his family.

"These young boys in Calais are our friends. They are fun to be with despite the horrors they have been through. Some are cheeky, some are smart, some like football, some like books. None deserve to be here and none deserve to die alone in the sea.

"This young boy's death starkly demonstrates the total failure of our government to do anything to help these children who are in such desperate straits. Their failure to implement the Dubs amendment; their failure to negotiate for family reunion; their failure to do anything for the people here who are simply asking for our help.

"Things need to change. We need a way for people's asylum claims to be fairly heard without them having to risk their lives. We need this before someone else dies."

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