Channel boat victims may have tried to contact UK authorities, Home Office says

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A Home Office official has admitted that people on board a boat that sank in the English Channel last week may have called UK authorities for help after they learned that their soaring boat was breaking down.

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At least 27 people lost their lives when a muddy boat started taking water during the treacherous crossing from France to England.

Survivors of the tragedy have claimed that this week they attempted to contact UK authorities to alert them to the fact that the boat was in danger.


Asked by the Joint Committee on Human Rights about the incident on Wednesday, the Home Office’s Secret Channel Threat Commander Daniel O’Mahony said there were “several migrant boats” in the water at the time and the Coast Guard “responded to each one”. from them”.

The chair of the committee, Harriet Harman, repeatedly asked to confirm whether the people on board the boat had called the UK authorities for help because it was in trouble and if so, what was the response.

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Mr O’Mahony replied: “I can’t tell you for sure whether we got a call from that boat for sure… If the people on that boat had called the UK authorities, I would have told you. I can certainly say that we had answered for that call.”

Describing how the fatal incident unfolded, he said: “The French authorities alerted us to the presence of a boat that had been damaged and there were people in the water, in 1258.

“At the time it was well within French territorial waters in a French search and rescue area. We responded quickly, the Coast Guard sent a helicopter, we made all our … boats available.”

His remarks come after one of only two known survivors, who were on the stricken canoe, accused British and French authorities of failing to come to the group’s rescue despite appeals for help.

Mohamed Sheikha from northern Iraq described how people on a crowded dinghy “began to fall into the water” after the boat broke down and stopped moving.

In an interview with Kurdish state broadcaster Rudaw, Mr Sheikha, 21, was said to have said: “We … called the French police and they asked to send us a live location.

“So we sent them the location, but they said ‘You’re in British territory, we can’t do anything’. We then called the British, but they said, ‘No, call the French’.

A Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokesperson said: “HM Coastguard is committed to protecting life in and around the seas and coastal areas of this country.

“On Wednesday 24 November, HM Coastguard received over 90 alerts, including 999 emergency calls, from the English Channel, and we responded to them all.

“The HM Coastguard does not regularly enter French waters unless asked to assist in the response by our search and rescue partners in France, as we were last week.

“On that occasion, we dispatched HM Coastguard helicopters from Lyd to support search and rescue efforts, and an RNLI lifeboat from Ramsgate also participated in the search.”


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