France charges five soldiers over 2021 Channel migrants accident

Tribute to the 27 migrants who died in a shipwreck in the English Channel last year, in Dunkirk

By Marine Strauss

PARIS (Reuters) -French judges charged five soldiers on Thursday for not assisting people in danger over the deaths of 27 migrants trying to cross the Channel in a small boat in November 2021.

The sinking was the worst disaster on record involving migrants in the narrow seaway separating Britain from mainland Europe.

Nine people were placed in custody in the probe into the tragedy, but only five were formally charged, a judicial source said.

AFP news agency reported that those charged included three women and two men on duty at the Channel rescue centre at the time.

In the wake of the accident, France and Britain traded blame. A French migrant charity filed a complaint shortly after the tragedy, saying the migrants called both French and British authorities but were only sent help when a French fisherman raised the alert, more than 10 hours later.

AFP reported that among those in custody, some are soldiers from the French rescue service Cross Gris Nez, in charge of rescues in the Channel. Cross Gris Nez declined to comment. The Manche prefecture did not respond to calls for comment.

The Paris court in charge of the investigation was not immediately available for comment.

(Reporting by Marine Strauss, Sudip Kar-Gupta, Editing by Paul Simao and Richard Chang)