t least six people have died and more than 50 rescued after a boat carrying migrants sank in the Channel.
British and French crews have been involved in a large-scale operation after the vessel got into difficulty off the coast of Sangatte on Saturday morning.
Around 65 people are thought to have boarded the boat – with two possibly still missing at sea, France’s Maritime Prefecture of the Channel and the North Sea said.
Six were recovered in serious condition, one of whom was flown by helicopter to a Calais hospital and declared dead.
An updated statement said the other five, who were taken in by boat, had also died.
A passing ship first raised the alarm that a vessel was sinking near Calais in the early hours of Saturday, the prefecture said.
Some 22 people were rescued and dropped off in Dover, including by a Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) crew, which was launched shortly before 4am, and a British chartered ship.
At least 36 other survivors were collected by French boats and taken to the port of Calais, as well as the five people who died.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman chaired a meeting with Border Force officials later on Saturday morning, describing the incident as a “tragic loss of life”.
She is being updated on latest developments in the operation.
A UK Government spokesperson said: “These deaths are devastating and our thoughts are with the victims’ families and friends at this time.
“This incident is sadly another reminder of the extreme dangers of crossing the Channel in small boats and how vital it is that we break the people smugglers’ business model and stop the boats.”
Rescue teams from Folkestone and Langdon Bay along with paramedics from South East Coast Ambulance have also been sent to respond, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said.
A French Navy aircraft and helicopter had been deployed, asssisted by a number of boats and merchant vessels, a British chartered ship and the UK Coastguard.
An investigation has also been opened by the Boulogne prosecutor’s office.
It comes after 755 people crossed the English Channel in small boats on Thursday, the highest daily number so far this year, confirming the total since 2018 has passed 100,000.
Some 343 people in six boats were detected crossing the Channel on Friday, according to Home Office figures.
It means more than 1,000 made the journey over two days and takes the provisional total for the year so far to more than 16,000.
Thursday’s figures were recorded as another major search and rescue operation was launched after 17 migrants went overboard and were pulled from the water.
The Home Office said they were all taken ashore for medical checks.
Campaigners said the incident underscored the need for safe passages into the UK.
Steve Smith, chief executive of refugee charity Care4Calais said the incident was an “appalling and preventable tragedy.”
“This terrible loss of life demonstrates yet again the need for a system of safe passage to the UK for refugees. This would enable them to apply for asylum while in France, and then to travel safely to the UK without risking their lives in small boats.
“It would put the people smugglers out of business overnight,” he said.
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, urged the Government to focus on creating an “orderly and humane asylum system”.
He accused the Government of “focusing on passing expensive and unworkable legislation and shutting down existing safe ways to get to the UK.”
Head of bargaining at the Public and Commercial Services union Paul O’Connor said the Government had “blood on its hands”, branding its approach a “moral disgrace”.
“There is a readily available policy to prevent this tragic loss of life,” he said.
“Unfortunately, our calls on the Government to adopt it have fallen on stony ground. It’s clear they have no desire to prevent these dangerous crossings.”
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said it is “desperately” necessary to stop dangerous crossings and “the terrible criminal smuggling gangs who profit while lives are lost”.
Natalie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover, said the fatal incident reinforced the need for joint patrols in the Channel.
She told the PA news agency: “Today’s tragedy underlines why we must stop the small boats to keep people safe and prevent loss of life in the Channel.
“These overcrowded and unseaworthy deathtraps should obviously be stopped by the French authorities from leaving the French coast in the first place.
“The time has come for joint patrols on the French coast and a cross-Channel security zone before any more lives are lost.”
It comes after the Government came under fire on Friday following the removal asylum seekers on the Bibby Stockholm barge due to the discovery of Legionella bacteria in the water supply.
The vessel had been billed as an alternative to housing migrants in expensive hotels but all 39 on board have now been placed in alternative accommodation while health checks are carried out.
Senior Conservative MP David Davis said the disembarkment revealed the “startling incompetence” of the Home Office while fellow Tory backbencher Tim Loughton said it was an “embarassment.”
The Home Office has said the health and welfare of asylum seekers “remains an utmost priority” and that the evacuation was a precautionary measure, with no one on board having fallen sick.