Establishment of an independent non-statutory inquiry into the November 2021 incident when at least 27 people lost their lives crossing the Channel.

The Rt Hon Mark Harper MP

On 24 November 2021, there was a tragic mass-casualty incident, resulting in at least 27 fatalities, from a small boat attempting to cross the Channel. Our thoughts are with the loved ones of those who died, and with those who responded to an extremely distressing event.

Incidents such as this continue to demonstrate the danger inherent in illegal crossings and underline the importance of putting a stop to them.

When events such as these occur, there is a legal obligation to investigate. While this would normally be the remit of a coroner, in this case, the bodies of the deceased were recovered to France and this does not allow for a coroner’s inquest. Therefore, I am announcing the establishment of an independent non-statutory inquiry into this incident.

The inquiry will be modelled on a coroner’s inquest and will allow a full and independent investigation into the circumstances of the deaths to take place, following the Marine Accident Investigation Branch’s report published yesterday (8 November 2023).

The inquiry will focus on investigating this individual incident, with the aim of ensuring the rights of those affected are upheld and allowing the survivors and family members of the deceased to be heard. Crucially, it will also examine the circumstances in which the deceased lost their lives and what lessons can be learned to prevent incidents like this in the future.

The Department for Transport is working at pace to finalise the appointment of the chair and the terms of reference, both of which I will announce in due course. It will be for the chair, in due course, to make decisions concerning the inquiry’s processes and procedures. In particular, the chair will consider the most effective way to establish what happened and make recommendations for the future.

Published 9 November 2023