Largest French police boat survives migrants’ journey across the channel

A ship spotted just 3 miles off the coast of France has been identified as the “Flounder,” the largest of the vessels belonging to the CNR Maritime Policing Unit — aka the French gendarmerie — which witnessed the tragedy. A photo of the flounder, France’s national police force, appeared on a Channel 11 news program showing the vessel strewn along the surf of the channel between Dover and Calais. The “flounder” is only about 250 yards off the coast, without a life jacket, and as many as 40 people on board. The refugees — mostly from Afghanistan and Somalia — were crossing from the Levant to Germany with the intention of fleeing to Britain. As a BBC journalist noted, “It doesn’t take much to be able to live and survive in Cornwall and northern England,” a far more homogeneous community where there are far fewer migrant “seekers.”

One of the passengers — identified by French media as a 28-year-old Afghan woman, Taslim, who was dreaming of making it to the United Kingdom — is said to have died on the voyage despite offering to use a female translator. Her body was later identified as that of a migrant reportedly returning home after being deported from the U.K. But at least 47 other migrants remain missing after the flounder was forced to stop. The names of the remaining missing have not been released.

The death toll could have been far higher had not six French officers, led by Charles Armand, sprung into action when they saw the ship bobbing at the surface of the surf, three miles off the French coast. The officers struggled to rescue the migrants, cut off the engine and managed to bring the flounder safely to shore with the help of the Belgian Coast Guard. The six officers who were with the Flounder at the time, however, subsequently suffered concussions and some of the migrants’ bodies are believed to have been thrown overboard. They were taken to a local hospital for treatment.

According to Paris 24, five of the passengers were migrants working for the Arabic language portal, Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), whose boat was among the boats that tried to stop the convoy of smuggler boats. MOAS is also said to have lost contact with its own Turkish vessel, which was supposed to be carrying the first 20 migrants into France. The 14 migrants remain in British custody at the moment.

Read the full story at The Independent.


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