Man arrested in connection with mass drowning of migrants in English Channel last year

A suspect has been arrested in connection with the mass drowning of migrants in a dinghy in the English Channel a year ago. 

Harem Ahmed Abwbaker, 32, was taken into custody at an address in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, by investigators from the National Crime Agency (NCA).

He's the first suspect to be arrested in the UK after 31 migrants were drowned when their boat deflated and sank in darkness two hours after leaving France.

Emergency telephone calls led to confusion about whether the dinghy was in French or British waters.

A total of 27 bodies were recovered the next day, two people survived and four are still missing.

Soon after the tragedy, French authorities arrested five suspects and held fifteen more in June this year.

Abwbaker, whose photo has been blurred by the NCA due to legal concerns, is set to appear at Westminster magistrates' court on Wednesday morning for a French extradition warrant hearing.

"This is a significant arrest, and comes as part of extensive inquiries into the events leading to these tragic deaths in the Channel," said the agency's deputy director Craig Turner.

"The individual detained today is suspected of having played a key role in the manslaughter of those who died."

He added: "Working closely with our French partners, we are determined to do all we can to get justice for the families of those whose lives were lost, and disrupt and dismantle the cruel organised criminal networks involved in people smuggling."

The NCA explained that Abwbaker will face charges of the "French equivalent of manslaughter" and facilitating illegal immigration.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has said her thoughts are with the "families of those who tragically lost their lives" and thanked investigators for their "tireless work".