FOUR suspected people smugglers have been charged with manslaughter this evening after at least six migrants drowned in the English Channel en route to the UK.
The Paris prosecutors announced on Wednesday evening that the accused remain in custody until criminal proceedings can be organized.
All are said to have been involved in last Saturday morning’s disaster near Sangatte in northern France, in which a damaged dinghy overturned in the sea, throwing around 60 people overboard.
Many were not wearing life jackets, although each paid the equivalent of around £1,000 to cross illegally into the UK.
The accused have not yet been identified by name but are described as two Iraqis, both aged 43, and two Sudanese men, aged 29 and 17.
They were charged with “manslaughter”, “participation in a criminal organization” and “unintentional bodily harm”.
The Iraqis are specifically suspected of “organizing the transfer of migrants on a makeshift boat for a fee,” a spokesman for the Paris prosecutor’s office told France Info, the country’s public broadcaster.
The Sudanese men, meanwhile, are accused of “actively engaging in the carriage of passengers under dangerous conditions in exchange for a preferential fare for their own crossing.”
This basically means that the Sudanese wanted to immigrate to the UK and kept costs down by helping smuggle others into the country.
The bodies of all the confirmed dead are still being examined at the Lille Forensic Institute and two men are still officially missing at sea.
According to the investigators, all eight victims were young men from Afghanistan.
So far, 30 people rescued by British and French rescue services have been heard as witnesses.
The latest disaster comes almost two years after the worst-ever small boat accident in the English Channel.
On November 24, 2021, an inflatable boat with 29 people on board collapsed. The 27 deceased were later 16 Kurds from Iraqi Kurdistan, four Afghans and five other nationalities.
French rescue workers from a switchboard were later accused of improperly answering their 911 calls, but the people smugglers responsible for organizing the boat were never brought to justice.
Last Thursday, 755 people were recorded crossing the English Channel in small boats – the highest daily number so far this year.
Since current records began on 1 January 2018, 100,715 migrants have arrived in the UK after their journey.
Four migrants died in December 2022 after their boat sank in the freezing water.