Four people including two children have drowned after a migrant boat capsized off the coast of France earlier today.
Eighteen people have been taken to hospital, some for treatment for hypothermia.
A young child thought to be five is among the reported dead.
The child and a woman were in cardio-respiratory arrest when they were taken into care, but could not be resuscitated at the dock.
A fourth victim, an eight-year-old child, was taken into care in a “desperate” condition and has since died.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “My thoughts are with the loved ones of those who tragically lost their lives in the Channel today
“We have offered the French authorities every support as they investigate this terrible incident and will do all we can to crack down on the ruthless criminal gangs who prey on vulnerable people by facilitating these dangerous journeys.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel added: “I am truly saddened to learn of the tragic loss of life in French waters this morning.
“My thoughts and prayers are with their families and loved ones at this time.
“We are in touch with our French counterparts who are leading on the response and have offered whatever support they need as they investigate this incident.
“This tragic news highlights the dangers that come with crossing the Channel and I will do everything I can to stop callous criminals exploiting vulnerable people.”
The Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Yvette Cooper, said: “This is truly awful.
“It is heartbreaking that young children should be involved in this tragedy. These boats are so dangerous.”
Military resources as well as civilian boats have been involved in the rescue operation after the vessel was seen to be in difficulty near Dunkirk.
The people are thought to have been trying to cross to the UK, despite wind gusts of up to 18mph.
The alarm was raised by a sailboat, thought to be captained by an Englishman, which notified search and rescue.
“He reported around 20 people on board an inflatable boat that was not big or strong enough for them,” said an investigating source.
“An air and see rescue operation was immediately launched in poor weather off Loon-Plage,” said the source, referring to a beach just west of Dunkirk.
A number of resources were immediately contacted and dispatched to aid the people aboard.
These included French patrol boats and a helicopter from the Belgian Air Force as well as a fishing boat.
A huge search and rescue operation was launched after the capsizing to locate the boat’s occupants which included Iraqi and Kurdish Iranians.
Eight people were rescued in a state of hypothermia, including one considered serious. (Mirror UK)