France arrests fifth suspect in migrant boat tragedy

Seventeen men, seven women and three minors died when the boat sank off the northern coast of France on Wednesday, according to public prosecutors in Lille. Four suspected people smugglers had already been arrested on Wednesday afternoon, Darmanin said.

Migrants sit on the beach after being helped ashore from a RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) lifeboat at a beach in Dungeness, on the south-east coast of England, on 24 November 2021, after being rescued while crossing the English Channel. Picture: Ben STANSALL/AFP

PARIS - A fifth suspect has been arrested in connection with the migrant boat that sank in the English Channel, killing at least 27 people, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said Thursday.

Seventeen men, seven women and three minors died when the boat sank off the northern coast of France on Wednesday, according to public prosecutors in Lille. Four suspected people smugglers had already been arrested on Wednesday afternoon, Darmanin said.

The minister told the RTL broadcaster that the fifth suspect's car was registered in Germany and that he had bought inflatable Zodiac boats in Germany.

Prosecutors in the northern city of Lille have opened an investigation against the five for homicide and bodily harm, membership in a criminal gang, and aiding in the illegal crossing of borders.

Darmanin said France had arrested 1,500 people smugglers since the start of the year.

He said they "operate like mafia organisations", using encryption to stop police tapping their phone conversations.