Since the International Organisation for Migration began collecting data in 2014, the shipwreck of November 24, 2021, has been the deadliest crossing of the English Channel.
Everything began on the afternoon of November 23, 2021, when an inflatable boat, fragile and prone to folding when overloaded or taking on water, departed from LoonPlage with 30 people heading for England.
After a few hours of sailing, night fell, and the boat shipwrecked in the Channel. Its location, near Calais and Dunkirk, led to confusion. According to one of the two survivors, at 2:45 a.m., France and the United Kingdom were contacted by phone. « We called the French police (…) then we sent our location to the French police, and they told us, ‘You are in English waters, call the English.’ We called the British twice. They told us to call the French. »
They added that following these calls, no one came to rescue them. It was only at 2:30 p.m. that a fisherman discovered about fifteen bodies floating off the coast of Calais. The fisherman was shocked and described the scene as a « horror film. » A few hours later, a rescue vessel recovered the floating bodies. In total, 27 people were found dead, 2 were rescued, and 1 person is missing. Most people hailed from Ethiopia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Egypt, or Iraq.
However, the British and French navies refute the facts stated by the two rescued persons, who are of Somali and Iraqi origin. Initially, the British navy stated that they had « received 999 emergency calls from the Channel, and we responded to all of them. » Subsequently, Éric Lavault, a French naval captain, explained, « It is evident that on both sides of the Channel, the coordination is total. There is no game of shifting blame. »
On February 13, 2023, a request was filed with multiple authorities, including the Prime Minister, the Minister of the Interior, the Secretary of State for the Sea, the Maritime Prefect for the Channel and the North Sea, and the Director of the Regional Operational Centre for Surveillance and Rescue (CROSS). The request was formulated by three families of victims and two associations, Utopia 56 and the Human Rights League, seeking compensation for the damages suffered due to this tragic shipwreck.
This request also denounces the inadequacy of human and material resources allocated for rescuing people crossing the Channel. The aim of this procedure is to shed light on the responsibilities and culpable shortcomings of the administrations involved in this tragedy. The claimants seek compensation for both moral and material damages they have suffered. They hope this procedure will help prevent such tragedies in the future by forcing the State to fulfil its obligations regarding sea rescue.