the investigators evoke the “non-assistance to person in danger”

Could the criminal responsibility of French rescuers in the drowning of migrants in the English Channel be engaged? The hypothesis is seriously considered by the gendarmes, who are investigating the circumstances of the sinking of a migrant boat which killed at least twenty-seven people on November 24, 2021, according to a summary note written after ten months of investigation into this tragedy, including The world got to know.

In this document dated October 14, 2022, the soldiers of the research section of the maritime gendarmerie of Cherbourg (Manche) underline the behavior of the regional operational center for surveillance and rescue (Cross) Gris-Nez, in Pas-de- Calais, responsible for organizing the rescue of boats in difficulty on the crossing to England. They recommend “additional investigations” to shed light on “facts that may receive criminal qualification, under the heading of non-assistance to a person in danger”.

The dysfunctions on the part of the French rescuers stand out blatantly in comparison with the actions carried out by their British counterparts on the evening of the tragedy. In their summary, the gendarmes note that after several requests for assistance made by the rescue boat of the two countries, “the canoe is located on the French side at 2:05 a.m.”. However, “No French rescue means will be engaged to assist him (…), despite numerous distress calls received from this boat”.

The sequence of events,
reconstructed by The world

Sources : MarineTraffic and The world ·. Cartography : The world.

At the end of their investigation on the night of November 24, the gendarmes are surprised at the little information transmitted by the Cross to the British rescuers when the boat crosses the maritime border. Thus, the French emergency services do not specify ” never ” to their counterparts “This boat is in trouble [ni qu’elle a] asked for help and has been waiting for a promised lifeboat since [2 h 05] ».

On the other hand, they emphasize the responsiveness of the British, who, “As soon as the information from the Cross Gris-Nez indicating that a migrant boat was close to English waters, alerted the Border Force”the border control authority, and “engaged quickly” their patrol boat, the Valiant. At the same time, the British emergency services broadcast a “Mayday”a signal calling for assistance to a boat whose passengers are in mortal danger. “No ship responded to this distress call, despite several broadcasts”note the investigators.

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Above all, British rescuers are asking “with insistence and repeatedly” the French to send the tricolor patrol boat Flamingomuch closer to the boat which “flows” that the Valiantthen forty-five minutes of navigation. “The Cross operator will refuse to involve him, arguing that he is busy on another case”note the investigators, who are struggling to understand this decision, since the radio study has shown that the Flamingo was not at that time “not busy on a vital mission”. They also wonder why “the operator of the Cross has indicated, on several occasions”migrants having sent a rescue boat, while this information “will prove to be inaccurate[e] ».

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