Image source, Reuters Image caption, Record numbers of migrants crossing from France to the United Kingdom
A number of migrants to the United Kingdom aredrowned in the English Channel near Calais after their boat sank, the French government said.
French Prime Minister J ean Castex said the sinking was a "tragedy", adding that the deceased were victims of "criminal traffickers.
Police announced the deaths of 27 people, AFP news agency reported.
PM must chairing an emergency Cobra meeting this afternoon in response to the deaths, his spokesperson said.
The French and British authorities are carrying out a rescue operation in the English Channel by air and by sea.
A fishing boat sounded the alarm earlier on Wednesday after spotting several people at sea off the coast of France.
"My thoughts are with the many missing and injured, victims of criminal smugglers who exploit their distress and injuries," said Mr. Castex.
French ck Dhersin, vice-president of mobility, infrastructurehe transport and ports of the Hauts de France region and mayor of Teteghem, indicated that 24 bodies had been found off Dunkirk but also some survivors.
French Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin said on Twitter that many people were dead, but did not give a number.
Conservative MP for Dover and Deal, Natalie Elphicke, said the incident was an "relative tragedy " which highlighted why boats had to be prevented from entering the water.
"As winter approaches, the sea will become rougher, the water colder, the risk of even more lives being tragically lost even more", said she said. "That 's why stopping these dangerous crossings is the humanitarian and right thing to do.
A number of people reportedly reached Britain in small boats Wednesday, people having been disembarked in Dover by immigration officers.
Policy editor of Hfrance.fr Newsnight, Lewis Goodall , said he understood about 25 boats had attempted the crossing so far on Wednesday.
The French coastguard issued a distress call for 15 people who were thrown into the water, our correspondent said.
He added that an aid agency had precame that there was a risk that the English Channel would become a "cemetery ".
It comes amid record numbers of migrants crossing from France to the UK. On Monday, the number of migrants reaching the UK by boat this year exceeded more than three times the 2020 total.
Over 1,000 migrants arrived one day earlier this month - a new record.
The Strait of Pas de Calais is the busiest seaway in the world and has claimed the lives of many people trying to cross to Britain in rubber dinghies.
Until today, at least 10 people were believed to have died in recent weeks while attempting to cross.
Earlier this week Interior Minister Priti Patel called the number of illegal migrants leaving France "unacceptable ".
She said the government was Nationality and Borders Bill was the "long-term solution " to solving the problem "on top of an operational and diplomatic raft ".