Sunday, 01 Oct 2023

UK coastguard left Channel migrants adrift in lead-up to mass drowning

UK coastguard left Channel migrants adrift in lead-up to mass drowning


UK coastguard left Channel migrants adrift in lead-up to mass drowning

Hundreds of vulnerable migrants were abandoned to their fates after the UK coastguard "effectively ignored" reports of small boats in distress during the days leading up to the worst Channel disaster in 30 years when at least 27 people died, an Observer investigation suggests. Around 440 people appear to have been left adrift after the coastguard sent no rescue vessels to 19 reported boats carrying migrants in UK waters, according to an analysis of internal records and marine data seen by the Observer and Liberty Investigates.

Experts said the failure to act appears to breach international law.

The incidents occurred across four dates in early November 2021, weeks ahead of the mass drowning when a dinghy carrying migrants capsized.

Although evidence relating to the 24 November tragedy has yet to be released ahead of an official report, the documents raise questions over under-staffing in the coastguard and a lack of vital resources in the period immediately before the disaster.

Documents also reveal that the number of operators on shift in the Dover control room fell below internal targets that month, including on the night of the tragedy.

Last night MPs called for an urgent review of coastguard staffing levels and a fundamental review into its available resources.

"No government that cares about human rights would allow staffing levels to drop so low that it endangers human lives," said Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which represents coastguard staff.

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