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5 migrants have died while crossing the English Channel, hours after UK approved deportation bill

PARIS (AP) — Five people, including a child, died while trying to cross the English Channel from France to the U.K.

PARIS (AP) — Five people, including a child, died while trying to cross the English Channel from France to the U.K., French authorities said Tuesday, just hours after the British government approved a migrant bill to deport some of those who entered the country illegally to Rwanda.

The prefecture responsible for the north of France said in a statement authorities spotted several boats, packed with migrants, off the coast of Pas-de-Calais, attempting to depart in the early morning.

Several French navy ships, including assistance and rescue tug Abeille Normandie, intervened to rescue “a very overcrowded boat carrying more than one hundred people on board,” the statement emailed to The Associated Press said.

“They rescued several people, but unfortunately, five people have died despite the emergency services' swift intervention,” it said.

The regional prefect Jacques Billant said a woman, three men and a 7-year-old girl died. He also said the boat attempted to sail off the beach in Wimereux and carried 112 people.

The statement added that the rescue operation was ongoing and helicopters and boats were already deployed on scene.

The Voix du Nord, a regional newspaper, said the bodies were discovered at the Wimereux beach in northern France on Tuesday morning.

About 100 migrants have been rescued and placed aboard a French navy ship. They will be taken to the port of Boulogne, the paper said.

This came only hours after British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s latest effort to send some migrants to Rwanda finally won approval from Parliament. The U.K. government plans to deport some of those who enter the country illegally as a deterrent to migrants who risk their lives in leaky, inflatable boats in hopes that they will be able to claim asylum once they reach Britain.

Human rights groups have described the legislation as inhumane and cruel. Both the United Nations refugee agency and the Council of Europe called on the U.K. Tuesday to rethink its plans for fears they could damage international cooperation on tackling the global migrant crisis.

Migrants trying to cross the busy English Channel face drownings and sinking among other deadly incidents, often aboard crowded boats.

An estimated 30,000 people made the crossing in 2023, according to U.K. government figures.

The Associated Press