A man found dead on a beach near Calais was “almost certainly” a migrant who drowned trying to reach the UK by crossing the English Channel in a small boat, French officials have said.
The man, whose body was found on a beach near Sangatte, outside Calais, at around 8am on Sunday, was wearing a life jacket, a local prosecutor said.
An initial examination of the body found no evidence of third party involvement, nor did it appear he had been in the water long, Pascal Marconville, prosecutor of the nearby town of Boulogne-sur-Mer, told local media.
It was likely the victim had drowned trying to make the crossing this weekend and that his body had washed up on the shore just a few hours later, Mr Marconville said.
Officers investigating the incident would work with the migrant communities based in Calais and Dunkirk to try to find out who he was and how he died, the prosecutor added.
Local news site La Voix du Nord reported that several other vessels, including one containing 17 people, had been intercepted on Sunday morning and made to return to Calais.
The group included a mother and three children suffering from hypothermia, La Voix du Nord said, adding that another 30 migrants were brought back to Boulogne on Sunday on a “hectic” day for rescuers.
According to Home Office figures, 170 migrants crossed the Channel in just 12 small boats on Saturday, while a further 222 were prevented from crossing by the French authorities.
The Home Office’s clandestine Channel threat commander, Dan O’Mahoney, said that the French had stopped 188 people making the crossing on Sunday.
The Home Office has yet to comment on the death in France or the number of people who managed to cross successfully despite the journey being extremely dangerous.
The co-founder of refugee charity Care4Calais, Clare Moseley, said: “Refugees take this risk because they are frightened, fleeing appalling horrors in some of the most dangerous places on earth.
“They do it because of the grim and unsanitary conditions in Calais, where they are constantly harassed and abused by the authorities.”
On Saturday, UK authorities warned that favourable conditions in the Channel were likely to encourage migrants to try before winter weather makes it impossible.
Record numbers of migrants have crossed the English Channel in small boats in 2020, with a new single-day record, 416, reaching the UK in early September.
More than 6,100 migrants have arrived in the UK on small boats so far this year.