UK Coast Guard Faces Manslaughter Lawsuit over Dead Migrants

CALAIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 25: Belongings of migrants, along with a deflated dinghy, life jacket and engines, lie on the beach of Wimereux on November 25, 2021 in Calais, France. At least 31 people including five women and a young girl died trying to cross the Channel to the UK …
Kiran Ridley/Getty Images

French humanitarian group Utopia 56 has filed a lawsuit against the British and French coast guard authorities following the deaths of 27 migrants illegally crossing the English Channel last month.

The manslaughter lawsuit was filed against two French authorities, the maritime prefect of the Channel and North Sea, the Regional Operational Centre for Surveillance and Rescue of Gris-Nez in the Pas-de-Calais, as well as Her Majesty’s Coastguard in the UK.

The suit accuse authorities in both countries of negligence for failing to prevent the deaths of illegal boat migrants in the English Channel.

On November 24th, 27 migrants drowned in the English Channel after their boat capsized off the coast of northern France while attempting to make the illegal journey to Britain.

The family of one of the drowned migrants paid $20,000 (£15,000) to people smugglers to help him illegally reach the UK. Zana Mamand Mohammad, the brother of the believed-drowned migrant, said that he hopes the lawsuit will bring “justice” for his family’s loss, The Guardian reported.

Investigators have so far been able to confirm the identities of 26 out of the 27 dead, 16 of whom were Iraqi Kurds, including four women, a 16-year-old teenager, and a 7-year-old girl.

The only two survivors of last months tragedy have accused the British and French authorities of ignoring their signals for help while their boat was sinking. They allege that the British authorities claimed their boat was in French waters and the French claimed it was in British waters.

Utopia 56’s lawyer in the case, Emmanuel Daoud, repeated these claim, saying: “The victims and their families are owed truth and transparency. We know that as their boat was sinking, the exiles and refugees sought to contact British and French rescue services, who passed the buck.

“They did not come to the aid of people who were in distress, and from that moment we consider that the question of responsibility – in the criminal sense of the term – has arisen.”

Responding to allegations of negligence, a spokesperson for HM Coastguard said “It is not appropriate for us to comment on the specifics of this legal action. On 24 November, Her Majesty’s Coastguard received over 90 alerts from the English Channel area including 999 emergency calls.

“Every call was answered, assessed and acted upon, including the deployment of search and rescue resources where appropriate. We always have and always will respond to anyone in distress, as we did that day.”

Nearly 28,000 migrants have illegally crossed the English Chanel into Britain this year, with an estimated 1,191 illegal migrants making the perilous journey this month, alone.

Britain has paid out £54 million to France in an effort to help them tackle the crossings, but French President Emmanuel Macron has been reluctant to collaborate with Britain’s request to agree to a joint policy on illegal migration and deportations.

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