A man is feared to have drowned off the coast of Essex after trying to cross the Channel in a small boat, the Home Office said on Tuesday.
Two other people, believed to be from Somalia, were rescued after a coordinated search and rescue mission near the port of Harwich.
A Home Office spokesperson said that the search for the missing man concluded on Tuesday afternoon after a search of the coast.
“While the investigation into this incident continues, it is a reminder of the extreme dangers of crossing the Channel in small boats and the callous disregard for life shown by the criminal gangs,” the spokesperson said.
On Monday afternoon Border Force and HM Coastguard assisted in the rescue of the two men off the coast of Harwich, the Home Office said. An extensive joint search and rescue operation for another man, reported to have entered the sea in international waters, was then carried out, they added, continuing into Tuesday.
The search was led by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, supported by Border Force and the RNLI.
The agency said a helicopter and a plane had been sent to the incident. “HM Coastguard has been coordinating a search and rescue response to an incident off Essex, working with Border Force and other partners,” a spokesperson said.
A 27-year-old Eritrean man died in August after a boat carrying 36 people began to sink off the coast of France.
Five members of a Kurdish-Iranian family, including a 15-month-old boy, died in October last year after their boat capsized in French waters.
Sir Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative MP for Harwich, said: “I am very sad that there may have been loss of life. Thank you to the RNLI and the other search and rescue services which are still looking for survivors. We must redouble our efforts to end this scandalous illegal people-trafficking by criminals who take money from people whose lives they then put at risk.”
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “Tragically, this is not the first time somebody has gone missing attempting the dangerous journey across the seas to Britain in search of safety.
“The sad reality is that unless this government fundamentally changes its approach by committing to an ambitious expansion of safe routes for those in need of protection, the lives of ordinary men, women and children will be at risk of being lost in this way.”