Manslaughter investigation into migrant drownings in English Channel opens in Paris

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An investigation into the sinking of migrants in the English Channel that left 27 dead on the night of 24 November has been handed over to Parisian investigating judges.

According to prosecutor's office, the judicial investigation was opened at the weekend for "involuntary manslaughter, involuntary injury, endangering others, aiding the entry and stay of a foreigner in France in an organised gang, aiding the entry or stay in a State party to the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants in an organised gang and criminal conspiracy."

The 27 victims of the sinking, which rekindled tensions between France and the United Kingdom, have been gradually identified by investigators.

There were 16 Iraqi Kurd, one Kurd from Iran, four Afghans, three Ethiopians, one Somali, one Egyptian and one Vietnamese on board the doomed vessel.

Seven women, a 16-year-old and a 7-year-old were among the 27 victims.

33 people were orignally on board

According to the investigation, the migrants left in an inflatable dinghy "late at night" from Loon-Plage, near the northern French town of Grande-Synthe, where many exiles camp along the coast.

France's interiort ministry say only two men, an Iraqi Kurd and a Sudanese, were rescued.

According to one of the survivors, 33 people were originally on board when the smugglers counted them.

The investigation is being carrid out by judges from the National Jurisdiction for Combating Organised Crime (Junalco) and is charged with determining the conditions of the sinking, which remain unclear.

Questions have been raised about the calls the migrants allegedly made to the French and British authorities when their makeshift boat started to sink.

Cries for help were ignored

In an interview with Iraqi Kurdish channel Rudaw, the Kurdish survivor said that as the boat began to sink, passengers had called the British and French authorities in vain for help.

The Préfecture Maritime de la Manche had ruled out that the call from the stranded migrants had not been answered.

Five suspected smugglers were arrested, according to Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, but they were not linked to the shipwreck, the deadliest since migrants began trying to cross the Channel.

This comes as French boats rescued 138 migrants stranded in the Channel late last week as they tried to reach Britain from France on makeshift vessels.

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