A migrant died after being airlifted to hospital as part of a huge air and sea rescue operation in the English Channel.
Rescue crews launched the rescue after a boat carrying around 40 people began taking on water as it headed to the UK from France.
French prosecutors have launched a manslaughter investigation following the man’s death.
French coastguard officers on Thursday were informed that ‘a number of migrant boats were in difficulty,’ said a border force official.
‘The Elena cargo ship reported as many 40 migrants in the sea, 13 nautical miles off Dunkirk.
‘They were all on a flimsy boat that was thought to have been provided by people smugglers, before it sank.
‘A search and rescue operation was launched, and it included the fishing vessels Nicolas Jérémy and Notre Dame de Boulogne, as well as a fast rescue boat from the Elena.’
French Army and Belgian Airforce helicopters were also scrambled, along with the French Navy ship Flamant.
‘The French helicopter NH90 hoisted a number of men onboard, as did the other vessels involved.’
‘One of the men was unconscious when he was transferred to the Flamant, and so he was rushed to hospital in Calais by helicopter, but he did not survive.’
The Dunkirk prosecutor’s office was informed and opened an investigation for manslaughter, endangering the lives of others, and people smuggling.
There was no initial information about the identity or nationality of the man who died.
Illegal crossing by small boats have multiplied this year, as people smugglers charge around $2,000 for a single crossing.