Children left adrift on small boats

4 March 2024: Guardian: Fears UK coastguards left children adrift on small boats before Channel tragedy

Children heard crying on 999 calls from boats in days before mass drowning, records suggest, yet logs contain no record of rescue attempts

Children – including babies – are feared to have been left adrift in small boats in the Channel by overwhelmed UK rescue agencies days before a mass drowning in 2021, prompting the former children’s commissioner to call for an investigation.

In at least nine incidents in coastguard logs, obtained by the Guardian and Liberty Investigates, no attempt to establish the safety of small boats containing children is recorded after calls for help.

In three of the cases, the documents suggest, call handlers responding to requests for help from the boats could hear children crying.

The crossings were made four days before a vessel sank on 24 November 2021, killing at least 27 people, including three children, in the worst maritime disaster in the Channel for more than 30 years.

The UK’s official report on the mass drowning, published last year, found the rescue attempt was hampered by confusion. Failings identified by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) included too few staff processing emergency calls in the Dover control room and a lack of aerial surveillance due to bad weather.

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