(Source: Seeking Sanctuary)

A major rescue operation took place throughout Tuesday 27 October after the French Coastguard were alerted by a sailing boat of a migrant boat capsized in the Dunkirk channel off Loon Plage.

A fishing vessel, a Dunkirk pilot boat, a lifeboat from Gravelines, the French Navy’s Garonne, a customs patrol vessel and French and Belgian helicopters were all involved.

Initial reports indicated that two people were alrady dead – drowned – one of them a child. The number was later raised to three.

It appears that eighteen people, Iraqis and Kurdish Iranians, were taken to hospitals in Calais and Dunkirk, two of them suffering from cardio-respiratory arrest, while eight others were suffering from hypothermia. Three may remain missing, one of them a small child.

Unknown to those in peril, who were in a small boat used for fishing trips, a warning had been issued to boat owners against launching vessels due to severe sea conditions.

Phil Kerton, co-director of Seeking Sanctuary, said:

“Desperate people have lost their lives in another tragic and distressing accident, this time off the French coast near Dunkirk. Conditions at sea were such that the crossing in a small boat was extremely hazardous from the start.

“Our thoughts at Seeking Sanctuary are with their families who are yet to learn of their loss and with with those of their companions who were lucky enough to be rescued, but who must now live with the memories of this tragedy.

“Like everyone else, each of the dead had hopes for leading a future life in peace and dignity, all seeking to realise their innate potential.

“We continue to urge that innovative solutions are found for the welfare of the world’s exiles. Especially means for their safe access to places where they may request asylum without falling into the hands of unscrupulous traffickers who do not hesitate to put lives at risk.

“We want to see fresh solutions that do not involve more security measures such as patrols, walls and fences, but which instead see each individual as a fellow human being in need of advice and help and with a genuine contribution to make to our community”.

In due course Seeking Sanctuary will remember the victims at the memorial for deceased seekers of sanctuary on the Dover seafront, just as it has already remembered another young refugee found dead on the beach at Sangatte near Calais on Sunday 18 October.

Identified as BB, he was Iranian and in his twenties. He was most likely attempting a crossing to the UK, tempted by calm water near the French coast that masked violet currents further out to sea.

Ben Bano from Seeking Sanctuary commented:

“This tragic death reminds us of the risk that so many refugees take in attempting to seek sanctuary from violence and persecution. We will remember and honour each young person who dies in this way, remembering that each person has, in the the words of Pope Francis, ‘a name, a face, and a story'”.

About Seeking Sanctuary

Seeking Sanctuary aims to raise awareness about people displaced from their homes and to channel basic humanitarian assistance from Faith Communities and Community Organisations via partnerships with experienced aid workers. Its special concern is for the 2,000 or so exiles who are stuck in north-western France, mistakenly expecting a welcome in the UK.

They need food, water, good counsel and clothes, which are accepted, sorted and distributed by several organisations, including two Calais warehouses which also supply needs further afield.

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More on Novena on the plight of migrants around Europe:

‘People Not Walls’ pleads with governments for migrants in Calais: “In the name of humanity, drop the ineffective border securitisation”

Migrant advocates say “end this cruel dilemma” for exiles in Calais

Secours Catholique denounces “appalling” living conditions of refugees in Calais

‘Seeking Sanctuary’ pays moving tribute to migrant life “full of hope and opportunity” lost in English Channel (photo)