An NGO has filed manslaughter charges against senior British and French officials for refusing to rescue dozens of migrants who drowned in the English Channel last month.
On 24 November, a boat carrying around 30 migrants and refugees capsized in the English Channel, killing 27 refugees as they attempted to make the perilous crossing to the United Kingdom from France.
It was later discovered, through accounts by two survivors, that the migrants had made distress calls to both the French and British rescue services prior to their deaths, giving enough time for authorities to launch a rescue operation. But this did not happen.
Most of the victims who drowned were Kurds from Iraq, followed by four Afghan men, three Ethiopians, a Somali, an Egyptian, and a Kurd from Iran. Amongst those killed were seven women, a 16-year-old, and a seven-year-old girl.
The France-based human rights association, Utopia 56, filed charges of "involuntary manslaughter" and "failure to help people in need" against two French officials – the coast perfect of Cherbourg, Philippe Dutrieux, and the director of the French regional coastguard Marc Bonnafous – and a British official – director of Her Majesty's Coastguards, Claire Hughes, on Friday.
The filing by Utopia 56, seen by the news agency AFP, says neglect and shortcomings by the French and British coastguards were a "regular" occurrence. The association said it hoped an investigation would further reveal the circumstances of the deaths.
The charges also criticised France's investigation into the incident as being focused more on the role that human traffickers played rather than the responsibility of the government. As for Britain, it has reportedly not yet launched any investigation.