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French authorities arrest 15 over migrant deaths in boat wreck near Calais

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By Euronews  with AFP
Life jackets and a damaged inflatable small boat on the shore in Wimereux, northern France.
Life jackets and a damaged inflatable small boat on the shore in Wimereux, northern France.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh, File

A group of suspected smugglers have been arrested in France after 27 people died trying to cross the English Channel last November.

Prosecutors say they have now indicted 13 men and two women, seven months after the incident off the coast of Calais.

The suspects are believed to be members of an Afghan smuggling network that charged around €3,000 each per person to transport people to the UK.

Ten of the suspects were brought before a magistrate on Thursday and have been charged. Five others have been released at this stage.

Just two people survived after a migrant vessel carrying 29 people sank off the French coast on 24 November. Most of the people on board were Iraqi Kurds.

The shipwreck was the deadliest since migrants began trying to cross the Channel, rekindling tensions between France and the UK.

According to French authorities, 35,300 migrants tried to make the dangerous crossing last year, with 30 registered deaths.

On Wednesday night, the French coastguard rescued 84 more migrants on two boats off Calais and Le Touquet.

It is estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 people have already attempted to cross the Channel in 2022.