5 migrants die while crossing the English Channel hours after the UK approved a deportation bill

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A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, by the Border Force following a small boat incident in the Channel, on Tuesday April 23, 2024. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said "nothing will stand in our way" of getting flights to Rwanda off the ground, as the Government braced itself for legal challenges to the scheme to send asylum seekers to the east African country. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)

PARIS – Five people, including a child, died while trying to cross the English Channel from France to the U.K., French authorities said Tuesday, just hours after the British government approved a migrant bill to deport some of those who entered the country illegally to Rwanda.

The prefecture responsible for the north of France said in a statement authorities spotted several boats packed with migrants off the coast of Pas-de-Calais, attempting to depart in the early morning.

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Several French navy ships, including assistance and rescue tug Abeille Normandie, intervened to rescue “a very overcrowded boat carrying more than one hundred people on board,” the statement emailed to The Associated Press said.

“They rescued several people, but unfortunately, five people have died,” it said.

The regional prefect Jacques Billant said a woman, three men and a 7-year-old girl died. He said the boat carrying 112 people attempted to sail off the beach in Wimereux.

The Voix du Nord, a regional newspaper, said the bodies were discovered at the beach on Tuesday morning. About 100 migrants were rescued and placed aboard a French navy ship. They will be taken to the port of Boulogne, the paper said.

It came hours after British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s latest effort to send some migrants to Rwanda finally won approval from Parliament. The U.K. government plans to deport some of those who enter the country illegally as a deterrent to migrants who risk their lives in leaky, inflatable boats in hopes that they will be able to claim asylum once they reach Britain.

Human rights groups have described the legislation as inhumane and cruel. Both the United Nations refugee agency and the Council of Europe called on the U.K. Tuesday to rethink its plans for fears they could damage international cooperation on tackling the global migrant crisis.

Migrants trying to cross the busy English Channel face drownings and sinking among other deadly incidents, often aboard crowded boats.

An estimated 30,000 people made the crossing in 2023, according to U.K. government figures.

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