French magistrates probing migrant deaths file charges against Channel rescuers

(AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
(AP Photo/Michel Spingler)

French magistrates have filed preliminary charges against five French maritime rescue personnel in a probe of the deadly sinking of a migrant craft in the English Channel in 2021 that killed 27 people.

The five, all military personnel, were handed a preliminary charge of not assisting people in danger, judicial authorities said.

Preliminary charges allow magistrates further time to investigate.

Magistrates have previously filed preliminary charges against 10 other people suspected of manslaughter and assisting the illegal entry of migrants. Three magistrates are handling the investigation.

The five military personnel now also handed charges serve at a French maritime surveillance and rescue centre for the English Channel, judicial authorities said. They are not being held in detention.

The centre’s missions include co-ordinating search and rescue operations.

The November 2021 sinking was the deadliest migration accident on the dangerous stretch of sea that separates France and Britain.

It shone a spotlight on smuggling networks that prey on migrants. It also sent tensions soaring between France and Britain over how to tackle the problem.