At least 27 people drowned crossing the Channel in an attempt to reach the UK from France.
Five women and one child are thought to be among the dead, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said, in what the International Organisation for Migration said was the biggest single loss of life in the Channel since it began keeping records in 2014.
Two people who were on board the boat when it capsized near Calais are in intensive care.
Five suspected people smugglers have been arrested in connection with the deaths. "We suspect that they were directly linked to this particular crossing," said Darmanin.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was, "appalled" by what happened,” adding that the UK would leave "no stone unturned" to stop “human trafficking gangs,” but made no mention of opening up safe routes for migrants to travel to the UK.
It is still unclear what caused the boat to capsize, but the dinghy has been described by Darmanin as “very flimsy” and like a paddling pool.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel expressed sadness for “those who have tragically lost their lives” and said the government would “overhaul our broken asylum system,” despite the Conservatives being in power since 2010.
Minnie Rahman, interim chief executive of the Joint Committee for the Welfare of Migrants (JCWI) told VICE World News the government’s policies weren’t working.
“What happened yesterday was a devastating but avoidable tragedy,” she said. “At least 27 people with hopes, dreams, families and futures died in a cold stretch of sea because this government has been playing politics with people's lives.”
“Since the pandemic, the very few safe routes that existed for people seeking asylum have been closed down leaving people with no way to get to the UK safely,” said Rahman. “The government has repeatedly prioritised, cruel, unworkable and dangerous border measures like pushbacks in the Channel, which will only lead to more deaths. This tragedy must represent a turning point where the priority is saving lives and not turning people away – this means establishing more safe routes immediately.”