NGO sues French and British authorities over Channel migrant boat tragedy

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An NGO has filed a lawsuit against French and British authorities over their failure to rescue 27 migrants who died in the English Channel last month.

“Utopia 56 files a complaint to the prosecutor of the Paris Judicial Court for manslaughter and failure to provide assistance,” the NGO said in a statement on Monday.

The lawsuit targets a French Prefect, French rescue services CROSS Gris Nez, the UK Director of Her Majesty’s Coastguards as well as “any other perpetrator, co-perpetrator or accomplice that the investigation would come to determine”.

The NGO, citing testimonies of survivors and their relatives, says “distress calls were reported to the French and English rescue services before the bodies were discovered by a fishing boat. No help has reportedly been given to them immediately.”

It also cites a “judicial source” saying the “ongoing investigation has already confirmed the existence of these calls”.

Utopia 56 says it was contacted by people onboard the boat before the tragedy. One of the voicemails said: “For example, if I call 999 they say call France and when we call France they tell us to contact the UK. Both couldn’t care less.”

“While UK authorities do not seem to have opened an investigation following this shipwreck and that the one opened in France seems to focus primarily on the role of smugglers, Utopia 56 hopes this lawsuit and subsequent investigations will shed light on the circumstances of this shipwreck,” the NGO said.

The Channel tragedy marked the biggest loss of life during attempted illegal crossings of the Channel, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

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It came as record numbers of migrants have attempted to cross from France to the United Kingdom this year.

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