Two years almost to the day after the tragedy which cost the lives of 27 migrants in 2021, a man and a woman died on Wednesday November 22 when their boat sank while trying to cross the Channel to reach England.

These two migrants, aged around thirty, were on board a boat crammed with around sixty people, which capsized shortly after leaving around 1:30 p.m. from a beach between Neufchâtel-Hardelot and Equihen-Plage (Pas-de-Calais), the Boulogne-sur-Mer prosecutor told Agence France-Presse. The other fifty-eight castaways were brought ashore, some in a state of hypothermia.

According to the Channel and North Sea maritime prefecture, these are the seventh and eighth deaths at sea “linked to the migratory phenomenon” since the start of the year. The others date back to August 12, when 6 Afghans aged 21 to 34 lost their lives in a shipwreck, the deadliest in the Strait of Pas-de-Calais since that of November 24, 2021.

According to the Boulogne-sur-Mer prosecutor, several boats left this beach on Wednesday morning, despite the presence of the gendarmes, who failed to prevent all the departures. An investigation into “aggravated manslaughter” and “helping an illegal alien to stay” has been opened.

The militarization of the coasts “reinforces risk-taking”

According to the maritime prefecture, the boat found itself in difficulty “less than a kilometer from the beach”. Six boats were mobilized, as well as a helicopter, to locate the two missing people, who could not then be resuscitated; 3 people, including 2 pregnant women, were hospitalized, according to the firefighters, who specified that they had sheltered a 7-year-old child.

Olivier Ternisien, president of Osmose 62, which helps exiles in Boulonnais, deplored the growing presence of gendarmes on the coast at the time of departures, “which reinforces the risk-taking” of migrants. Never before would they have attempted to set sail in “such a short weather window” as that of this Wednesday, he estimated.

“There is still no safe and legal route for people trying to reach England and the strategies of militarization of the coast only serve to increase risks,” denounced Julie, a coordinator of the Utopia 56 association in Calais, who does not wish to give her name.

More than 27,000 people have arrived in the UK this year

The average number of passengers per boat for these crossings continues to grow, with “on average 53 people per boat, an almost doubling since 2021”, declared the Hauts-de-France prefecture at the end of the summer .

Since the 1990s and after the closure in 2002 of a Red Cross center in Sangatte (Pas-de-Calais), hundreds of exiles have crowded into tents and makeshift shelters in Calais and in Dunkirk, to try to reach England, hidden in trucks or by boat.

According to British authorities, more than 27,000 people have arrived in the United Kingdom crossing the Channel since the start of the year, after a peak of 45,000 in 2022. Most are seeking asylum, which has led to a backlog processing these requests.

The French authorities regularly dismantle camps on the coast. At the end of October, 5,452 people had been “sheltered” since the start of the year, according to the regional prefecture. “The precarious situation of these unfortunate people, who want to leave at all costs, has worsened since the camps in the Paris region were emptied in anticipation of the Olympic Games,” accuses Jean-Claude Lenoir, president of Salam, a another association helping exiles.