The French coastguard can be held criminally responsible for allegedly failing to help at least 27 asylum seekers – including children – who have died in the Channel.
Officials ignored 15 urgent requests from the desperate group, while also failing to send a ship or relay information to British counterparts, French maritime police said.
One is even accused of saying ‘I didn’t ask you to leave’ after the line went down during a drowning call.
On the night of the disaster in November 2021, at least 17 men, seven women, one of whom was pregnant, and three children died when their dinghy deflated after leaving France. Five remain missing and two survived.
The allegations of negligence emerged in an internal report of an investigation by the French police – leaked to the newspaper Le Monde – which recommended investigating the local Regional Maritime Surveillance and Rescue Operational Centre.
Multiple distress calls were made to French and British coastguards before the boat was found in French waters at around 2 a.m., the report said.
Despite receiving the calls, “no French rescuers were sent to provide assistance,” it added.
So far, the British Coast Guard has not released its record of distress calls that night, but France has. In one message, when a man said he was “in the water,” the French operator reportedly told him, “Yes, but you are in English waters.”
Then when she tried to transfer the call to Dover, the line was disconnected – and she would muse, ‘Ah, so you can’t hear it. You will not be saved. Your feet are in the water, well… I didn’t ask you to leave.”
According to the report, British officials asked the French to send their own boat as it was closer, but they did not. However, the British side then mistakenly believed that the group had been saved.
The damning claims also include French officials who told a nearby tanker not to intervene to rescue those on board because a ship was en route – despite no ship being sent.
An ITV News investigation said that both British and French parties had defaulted, wasting ‘crucial hours wasting money’.
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