A man has been arrested in the UK in connection with the deaths of at least 27 people who drowned while trying to cross the English Channel in a dinghy last year.
Harem Ahmed Abwbaker was detained at an address in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, at around 6.45am on Tuesday, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said.
The 32-year-old is accused of being a member of an organised crime gang behind the crossing in November 2021. All but two of the migrants on board died after the boat sank. Four people are still missing.
He is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday for extradition to France, where the NCA said he will face charges of the “French equivalent of manslaughter” and facilitating illegal immigration.
NCA deputy director Craig Turner said: “This is a significant arrest, and comes as part of extensive inquiries into the events leading to these tragic deaths in the Channel.
“The individual detained today is suspected of having played a key role in the manslaughter of those who died.
“Working closely with our French partners we are determined to do all we can to get justice for the families of those whose lives were lost, and disrupt and dismantle the cruel organised criminal networks involved in people smuggling.”
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said: “My thoughts continue to be with the families of all of those who tragically lost their lives in this horrendous incident.
“I thank the NCA and other agencies across the UK and France for their tireless work to deliver justice for the victims and their families by identifying those we believe to be responsible and ensuring they feel the full force of the law.”
Last week, relatives of those who died marked the first anniversary of the tragedy by demanding the Prime Minister make changes to prevent future tragedies.
In a letter to Rishi Sunak, they called for politicians – including Ms Braverman – to end their “poisonous rhetoric” which they said “breeds fear and division”.
Their demands came amid concerns French rescue services had failed to respond adequately and as an official report from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) found the boat had reached UK waters.