‘People smuggler’ snared after 27 migrants died when dingy sank in Channel

A man has been arrested in connection with at least 27 deaths after a group of migrants drowned trying to cross the English Channel.

Harem Ahmed Abwbaker, 32, was held by the National Crime Agency (NCA), who were investigating the cause of the deaths along with French authorities.

Abwbaker is alleged to have been a key member of an organised crime group that planned the migrants' crossing in a dinghy.

He was arrested at around 6.45am on Tuesday (Nov 29) at an address near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire and has been held in custody since.

In November 2021 the boat left the French coast, but quickly sank, killing all but two passengers onboard including seven women, a 16-year-old, and a seven-year-old girl.

Investigators identified 16 Iraqi Kurds, including four women, but victims also included an Iranian Kurd, four men from Afghanistan, three people from Ethiopia, a Somali woman and an Egyptian man, officials. announced following the incident.

Four people are still unaccounted for following the incident.

French authorities had previously arrested five suspects in connection with the tragic incident and held fifteen more in custody in June this year.

Abwbaker is set to appear before Westminster Magistrates' Court on Wednesday morning (Nov 30) for extradition proceedings.

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."

The NCA said Abwbaker will face charges that amount to the "French equivalent of manslaughter" as well as facilitating illegal immigration.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman added: "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."

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