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Migrants heading for UK die after boat sinks

Migrants headed for the UK have drowned in the Channel near Calais after their boat sank. French prime minister Jean Castex said the shipwreck was a “tragedy”, adding those who died were victims of “criminal smugglers”.

Police say 27 people have died, AFP news agency has reported.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to chair an emergency Cobra meeting this afternoon in response to the deaths, his spokesman said.

An official at the International Organisation for Migration has called the drownings the biggest single loss of life in the Channel since they began collecting data in 2014.

French and British authorities are conducting a rescue operation in the Channel by air and sea.

A fishing boat sounded the alarm earlier on Wednesday after spotting several people at sea off the coast of France.

“My thoughts are with the many missing and injured, victims of criminal smugglers who exploit their distress and injury,” Mr Castex said.

Franck Dhersin, the vice-president of mobility, transport infrastructure, and ports in the Hauts de France region and mayor of Téteghem, said 24 bodies had been recovered off Dunkirk but also some survivors.

French interior minister Gerald Darmanin said on Twitter that many people had died, but did not give a number.

Conservative MP for Dover and Deal, Natalie Elphicke, said the incident was an “absolute tragedy” that underlined why boats needed to be stopped from entering the water.

“As winter is approaching the seas will get rougher, the water colder, the risk of even more lives tragically being lost greater,” she said. “That’s why stopping these dangerous crossings is the humanitarian and right thing to do.”

A number of people are believed to have reached Britain in small boats on Wednesday, with people seen being brought ashore in Dover by immigration officials.

SourceBBC