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  • Europe migrant crisis

Image source, ReutersImage caption, Record numbers of migrants are making the crossing from France to the UK

Several migrants headed for the UK have drowned in the Channel near Calais after their boat sank, the French government has said.

A rescue operation is under way after a fisherman sounded the alarm, a French coastguard spokesman said.

According to a French interior ministry statement reported by the AFP news agency, a further five people were recovered unconscious from the water.

It comes amid record numbers of migrants making the crossing.

On Monday, the number of migrants to have reached the UK by boat this year surpassed more than three times the 2020 total.

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BBC Newsnight's policy editor, Lewis Goodall, said he understood about 25 boats had tried to make the crossing so far on Wednesday.

The French coastguard had issued a mayday distress call for 15 people who had been tipped into the water, our correspondent said.

He added that an aid agency warned there was a risk the Channel could become a "graveyard".

More than 1,000 migrants arrived in one day earlier this month – a new record.

Earlier this week, Home Secretary Priti Patel described the number of illegal migrants departing France as "unacceptable".

She said the government's Nationality and Borders Bill was the "long-term solution" to tackling the issue "on top of a raft of operational and diplomatic work".