At least 27 migrants are dead after a boat capsized in the English Channel, off the coast of Calais, northern France on Wednesday, police sources told CNN affiliate BFMTV.

France's regional maritime prefecture said in a statement that a search-and-rescue operation for survivors was still ongoing in the Strait of Pas-de-Calais.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex described the incident as a "tragedy." "My thoughts are with the many missing and injured, victims of criminal smugglers who exploit their distress and misery," Castex said in a tweet on Wednesday.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin was heading to Calais on Wednesday. He expressed "strong emotions facing the tragedy of the deaths of many migrants after a boat capsized in the English Channel."

"We can never say enough about the criminal nature of the smugglers who organize these crossings," he added in a tweet.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was due to chair a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee in response to the tragedy, his spokesperson said.

On Monday, France's Ministry of Interior announced that it was sending equipment and vehicles worth over 11 million euros as part of an agreement with the United Kingdom, "to secure the coastal strip extending over more than 130 km, from Dunkirk to the Bay of Somme."

It added that "the police and gendarmes will have additional resources to carry out the mission of fighting illegal immigration."

Last week, 243 people were rescued in the English Channel as they tried to cross to the UK.


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