People on boats in Wimereux, near Calais, after migrants died in an attempt to cross the English Channel, in France, April 23, 2024. Image Credit: REUTERS

WIMEREUX, France: At least five migrants, including a child, died overnight trying to cross the Channel from France to Britain on their overcrowded small boat, local authorities said.

Three men and a woman were also among those killed on the dinghy carrying 110 people from the beach in the town of Wimereux, close to the resort of Boulogne-sur-Mer, the local government office told AFP.

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“After hitting a sand bank, the boat made it back out to sea. A crush then appears to have happened on board the overcrowded boat, leading to several casualties,” they said, without providing further details.

On Tuesday morning, police had cordoned off the beach, an AFP journalist said. Two ambulance helicopters were stationed nearby.

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The migrants had attempted to cross when the sea was calm but the temperature was barely above zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit).

It is the latest in a series of such tragedies as migrants, many from the Middle East and Africa, attempt the perilous sea crossing for what they hope will be a better future in Britain.

So far this year at least 15 people have died trying to reach English shores, according to an AFP tally.

On March 3, a seven-year-old Iraqi girl named Rola drowned in the capsizing of an overcrowded migrant boat in the Aa canal, around 30 kilometres (19 miles) inland from France’s northern coast. Her parents and brothers survived.

People attempting to reach Britain have increasingly been boarding boats on inland waterways to avoid stepped-up patrols on the French coast.

In late February, a 22-year-old Turkish man died and two more people went missing in the Channel off Calais.

In January, five people including a 14-year-old Syrian died in Wimereux as they waded through chilly seawater to reach a boat off the coast.

Twelve migrants lost their lives last year trying to cross the Channel, French authorities say.

British officials processed 5,373 migrants landing on the shores of southeast England in the first three months of this year after crossing the Channel in small vessels, the British interior ministry says.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government has been under mounting pressure to stem the number of crossings, particularly following a promise of a tougher approach to immigration after the United Kingdom left the European Union.

“These tragedies have to stop. I will not accept a status quo which costs so many lives,” UK interior minister James Cleverley said on X.

“This government is doing everything we can to end this trade, stop the boats and ultimately break the business model of the evil people smuggling gangs, so they no longer put lives at risk.”

The news of the latest migrant deaths comes after controversial UK government plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda cleared a final hurdle in parliament on Monday.

The United Nations and Europe’s highest rights body have urged Britain to scrap the plan.