PARIS (REUTERS, AFP) – A 16-year-old Sudanese boy has been found dead on a beach in the city of Sangatte in northern France, French Citizenship Minister Marlene Schiappa said on Wednesday (Aug 19).
Ms Schiappa said on Twitter that the young boy had disappeared at sea last night.
Local police were not immediately available to confirm details on the circumstances of his death, but said that the body was likely that of a teenage migrant who had drowned while trying to cross the English channel with a friend in a rubber boat.
The friend, also a 16-year-old Sudanese, was rescued on Tuesday night after the pair’s small, inflatable vessel ran into trouble while trying to make their way to Britain from France.
He told police his companion, of the same age, had gone missing at sea, local authorities said. The body was found on the beach in Sangatte in France’s northern Pas-de-Calais region hours later.
“This unbearable tragedy mobilises us still more… against smugglers who take advantage of the distress of human beings,” Ms Schiappa said.
British interior minister Priti Patel also said on Twitter:“This horrendous incident serves as a brutal reminder of the abhorrent criminal gangs and people smugglers who exploit vulnerable people.”
Britain and France said last week that the two countries would work “at pace” to finalise a new plan for shutting down a migrant route across the Channel.
Hundreds of people, including some children, have been caught crossing to southern England from makeshift camps in northern France, many of them navigating one of the world’s busiest shipping routes in overloaded rubber dinghies.
Attempted migrant crossings from France to Britain have sharply increased this year.
Since Jan 1, the authorities in northern France have recorded some 350 attempts or crossings involving more than 4,000 migrants, compared with 203 attempts and 2,294 migrants for the whole of 2019.
French maritime officials have rescued almost 1,000 migrants at sea attempting to cross the Channel in makeshift boats or even swimming.
The issue has been a source of tension in cross-Channel relations, with Britain accusing France of not doing enough to stop the crossings.
French authorities insist they are doing all they can.
Just Sunday, rescuers plucked 31 migrants in small boats, including four children, from the Channel in small boats.
And last Friday, French officials picked up 38 migrants in the waterway – the busiest in the world.