From file: Screenshot of footage showing rescue operation in Channel on December 14, 2022, for which one suspect has now been charged with manslaughter of four people who died during the crossing  | Source: itvNews
From file: Screenshot of footage showing rescue operation in Channel on December 14, 2022, for which one suspect has now been charged with manslaughter of four people who died during the crossing | Source: itvNews

UK police charged a man with four counts of manslaughter after four migrants died crossing the Channel in December 2022.

A 19-year-old man named Ibrahima B. has been charged with manslaughter after being accused of piloting a small boat that capsized while crossing the Channel from France last December, killing four people.

British and French rescue authorities were called to the incident and saved 39 others aboard the ship.

The man appeared before Folkestone Magistrates Court on Thursday (April 13). Back in December, Ibrahima B. pleaded not guilty to the charge of facilitating attempted illegal entry to the UK at the same court.

The boat Ibrahima B. and the others were traveling upon ran into difficulty off the coast of Kent in the early hours of December 14, 2022.

The 19-year-old was placed into custody in December. News reports suggest he is due to face both charges in a trial later this year.

A statement from Kent Police regarding the charges said that "officers are continuing to work to establish the identify of the deceased and locate the next of kin."

'Ramping up immigration enforcement'

"Ramping up immigration enforcement" is one of the UK government’s five promises to help reform the British asylum system and try and prevent more people from traveling across the Channel on small boats.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) has been working in partnership with police forces in Essex and Kent to investigate those who facilitate the small boat transport of migrants across the Channel. Back in December 2022, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited the NCA to learn about some of their investigations regarding people smuggling.

At the time, the NCA tweeted that they had at least 70 investigations under way "to target, disrupt, and dismantle people smuggling networks at every step." The NCA said they were working with teams in France, Belgium and Albania, as well as social media companies, in order "to prevent criminals from advertising their services."

Earlier this week, regional online news portal Kent Online, along with the right-wing Daily Mail and GB News, published stories saying that 19 people suspected of terrorism also crossed the Channel on small boats in 2022.

Suspected terrorists crossing Channel with other migrants?

The Daily Mail said it had been told by "security sources" that these suspected terrorists had been "creeping in amongst unsuspecting asylum seekers." The local Conservative party MP in Kent, Natalie Elphicke, retweeted the story, calling it "very concerning."

She called on ministers to "urgently review this situation." The alleged suspects are thought to be linked to organizations like the Islamic State group and their offshoots, the Daily Mail reported. Some of them have even lodged asylum claims in Britain, added the paper, saying "it is thought seven were already under investigation by other countries."

The BBC, reporting the story on Tuesday, said the Home Office declined to comment on individual cases, and didn't confirm whether the story was true.

'Cannot be deported'

According to the Daily Mail, "British security services confirmed the true identities of many of the 19 through the routine fingerprinting carried out on all Channel arrivals." The newspaper also claimed the suspects were "living in taxpayer-funded migrant hotels" in the UK.

They said that as the current law stands, most of the group "cannot be deported, due in part to human rights laws." The Mail added that if they were to be sent back to their home countries, the men could face a risk of torture or ill-treatment, so the government has to allow them to stay in Britain.

The Mail reported that "evidence against the men varies from case to case but is thought to include a mix of overseas convictions and intelligence material."

Sources in the security services reportedly told the Mail that having to monitor these suspects "adds to the overall surveillance burden," and was a "real problem and not something we’re able to easily stop."

According to Arab News, the UK is "currently thought to have 3,000 people deemed 'subjects of interest' to security services." The news outlet didn't mention whether some of these people arrived on small boats over the Channel.

Channel crossings

Over 400 migrants crossed the Channel in small boats over the past week, according to data collected by the British government. Over 1,100 have arrived since the start of April and nearly 5,000 since the start of the year.

In 2022, more than 45,000 people made the crossing. The British government said the French also prevented nearly 33,000 people from crossing, a 40% increase over the year prior.

The British government has stated that its "priority is to stop this illegal trade" adding that "our Small Boats Operational Command is working alongside our French partners and other agencies to disrupt the people smugglers."

So far, the UK-France Joint Intelligence Cell (JIC) has dismantled 76 organized crime groups since it was set up in July 2020. In 2022, the JIC and French law enforcement partners "secured the arrests of around 400 suspected people smugglers."

With Reuters and AP


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