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Teenager charged after refugee ship capsizes in English Channel

The 19-year-old was charged with inciting illegal immigration after four people were killed trying to cross the Channel.

A teenager has been charged with inciting illegal immigration after a boatload of migrants capsized in the English Channel, killing four, UK police said.

The 19-year-old was charged, police said on Sunday, after four migrants died trying to cross the Channel between Britain and France when the inflatable boat they were in began to sink.

The ship struggled with freezing temperatures on Wednesday morning, prompting a rescue operation by a fishing boat, the British coast guard and other emergency services.

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One of those who died was a teenager, Kent police said.

Thirty-nine migrants, including 12 children, were rescued by a British fishing boat, with some people holding on to a rope before getting on the boat.

Ibrahima Bah, 19, is in custody and will appear in court in the southern seaside town of Folkestone on Monday, Kent police said.

He faces a charge of facilitating an attempted entry into the UK illegally, police added.

Footage taken aboard the fishing boat on Wednesday showed a partially deflated dinghy as several people, some wearing life jackets, clung to the side of the boat.

Kent County Council said it had taken care of 12 children, who were on the boat.

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The sinking came just over a year after at least 27 people died in the Channel.

In November 2021, at least 17 men, seven women and three children died when their dinghy deflated after leaving France. Two people survived.

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A further death toll appears to have been averted on Wednesday largely thanks to the crew of the Arcturus fishing boat, which discovered dozens of migrants clinging to the stricken inflatable boat.

The crew is believed to have saved 31 of the 39 people rescued, the Reuters news agency reported.

The UK government blames such incidents on criminal people-smuggling gangs who charge migrants several thousand dollars for passage but load them onto flimsy boats with no regard for their safety.

In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and his British counterpart Suella Braverman said the incident was “a stark reminder of the urgent need to destroy the business model of human traffickers.” .

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The UK government is trying to pass new laws to prevent record numbers of migrants from trying to cross the Channel, including making such arrivals ineligible for asylum claims.

But human rights groups and refugee experts say government policies restricting asylum and tighter surveillance are pushing people to take more risks.

“What happened at the Canal this morning is a tragedy created by the government itself,” Freedom from Torture, a charity, said on Twitter. “How many people have to lose their lives before this government starts treating refugees like human beings?” she asked.

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