Flooding and partial sinking of an inflatable migrant boat with at least 27 lives lost

Marine Accident Investigation Branch

November 9
00:01 2023

Accident Investigation Report 7/2023

Read our marine accident investigation report, which includes what happened, subsequent actions taken and recommendations:

MAIB investigation report 7-2023: Inflatable migrant boat

Cover of MAIB investigation report 7-2023


During the early hours of the morning on 24 November 2021, an inflatable boat with around 33 people on board became flooded and partially sank in the Dover Strait as the occupants were attempting to cross from France to the UK. As a result of the flooding the boats occupants entered the water and at least 27 people lost their lives. There were 2 survivors and 4 people remain missing. The victims bodies and the 2 survivors were recovered later that day in French waters. The time and location of the partial sinking and the exact number of people on board are unknown. The MAIB investigation was not granted access to any information held by French authorities and has necessarily focused on the UKs emergency response.

Safety issues

  • the inflatable boat was wholly unsuitable and ill-equipped for the crossing attempt and the occupants only method of raising the alarm was via mobile phone

  • the effectiveness of the UKs search and rescue response was hampered due to poor visibility and the lack of dedicated aerial surveillance of the Dover Strait

  • with multiple boats attempting to cross the Dover Strait, and each boat making multiple calls indicating distress, it was extremely challenging for HM Coastguard to locate and identify discrete boats and to understand exactly how many were attempting the crossing

  • at the time of the accident, a number of HM Coastguard capacity enhancements had been identified but were not yet in place to support the UKs emergency response

Statement from the Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents


The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has been recommended (2023/110) to work with French authorities to develop agreed modalities for improving the transfer of information between the UK and French coastguard agencies pertaining to migrant boats during crossing events.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Border Force have been recommended (2023/111) to develop procedures to ensure effective surveillance is possible when aviation assets are unavailable.

BMT Drift Analysis Report

Forensic Oceanography Drift Analysis Report

NASH Maritime Drift Analysis Report

Published 8 November 2023

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