At least 31 migrants bound for Britain died when their boat sank in the English Channel, in what France’s interior minister called the biggest tragedy involving migrants on the dangerous crossing to date. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said 34 people were believed to have been on the boat. Authorities found 31 bodies and two survivors, and one person appeared to still be missing. The nationalities of the travelers were not immediately known. Four suspected traffickers were arrested on suspicion of being linked to the sunken boat, Darmanin told reporters in the French port city of Calais. Activists demonstrated outside the port of Calais. A joint French-British operation to search for survivors was still under way Wednesday evening.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “shocked, appalled and deeply saddened." Britain's prime minister convened a meeting of the government's crisis committee. The two governments have long been at odds over how to prevent the increasingly dangerous migrant crossings, with both sides blaming the other for not doing enough. The victims' nationalities were not immediately released. People fleeing conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea and Sudan have been among those gathered along towns in northern France seeking to cross to Britain. The number of migrants using small boats to cross the channel has grown sharply this year, despite the high risks that are worsening in autumn weather. A number of people are also believed to have reached Britain in small boats on Wednesday. More than 25,700 people have made the dangerous journey in small boats this year — three times the total for the whole of 2020.