France charges nine suspects over English Channel migrant disaster


French prosecutors have charged nine men over their involvement in the November 2021 incident in which 27 people drowned trying to cross the English Channel.

This takes the total number of people charged for their alleged role in the disaster to 10, of whom five have been incarcerated on accusations including manslaughter, said the source who asked not to be named.

The death of the 27 in late November was the worst accident in the Channel since 2018 when the narrow strait became a key route for migrants from Africa, the Middle East and Asia who have been increasingly using small boats to reach England from France.

Among the 27 — aged seven to 47 — were 16 Iraqi Kurds, four Afghans, three Ethiopians, one Somali, one Egyptian and one Vietnamese migrant.

Only two people survived the disaster, which sparked tension between the British and French governments.

Police had arrested 15 suspects in an overnight operation Sunday to Monday as part of their months-long investigation into the disaster, releasing five of them without charges.

The others were taken before a judge who charged one of them on Wednesday and the nine others on Thursday including with involuntary manslaughter, involuntary injury, endangering the lives of others and people trafficking, said the source.

Some of the people charged allegedly acted as drivers, people-traffickers or provided shelter, notably on behalf of a network originating in Afghanistan aiming to bring migrants to Britain illegally.