Search ends for Channel migrant missing at sea

HM coastguard helicopter Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Coastguard helicopters joined the 24-hour search effort

A search has been called off for a migrant who is believed to have fallen from a small boat crossing the Channel.

The woman was reported to have fallen from a dinghy that was seen by a cargo vessel heading towards the Kent coast at 13:15 BST on Friday.

Three people were reported to have gone overboard, two of whom were quickly found, HM Coastguard said.

The Home Office said: "Our thoughts are with the family and friends of this woman at this terrible time."

It said that 19 others from Iran and Iraq, including four children, had been rescued in the Channel and passed to immigration officials.

A large-scale search led by the Belgian Coastguard, involving three rescue helicopters, ended at 14:00.

Kent Police said it was now conducting a missing person's investigation, in conjunction with the National Crime Agency and the Home Office Immigration Enforcement Team.

The Home Office said: "Crossing the Channel in a small boat is a huge risk. The criminal gangs who perpetuate this are ruthless and do not care about loss of life."

At least 1063 people, including about 90 children, have crossed the Channel in small boats since 3 November 2018, according to BBC research.

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

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