A search and rescue operation is underway after reports at least five migrants have died during an attempt to cross the Channel.

According to the French Coastguard, the victims were attempting to get to the UK on an overloaded boat which was carrying 110 people.

The Channel is recognized as the busiest shipping lane in the world, witnessing over 400-500 vessel transits daily.

Tens of thousands of people attempt the dangerous crossing in small boats every year. 

Following the reports of the deaths, Home Secretary James Cleverly said: “These tragedies have to stop. I will not accept a status quo which costs so many lives.

“This Government is doing everything we can to end this trade, stop the boats and ultimately break the business model of the evil people smuggling gangs, so they no longer put lives at risk.”

Illegal migration minister Michael Tomlinson said the reports were “absolutely chilling”.

Asked about the reports on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, he said: “It is absolutely chilling to hear that. We have had fatalities now in the Channel for nine consecutive months.

The Refugee Council described the reports as “devastating” and “all the more tragic” coming just hours after the Rwanda Bill was passed in Parliament.

Enver Solomon, the council’s chief executive, said: “It is shocking to learn of the terrible loss of yet more lives in the Channel this morning. Our thoughts go out to the families and loved ones of those affected.

“This is another devastating human tragedy that could and should have been avoided – and for it to happen just hours after the Government’s Rwanda Bill became law makes it all the more tragic.

“The only sustainable way to reduce dangerous journeys across the world’s busiest shipping lane is for the Government to reduce the need for desperate people to take desperate actions.

“Instead of hostile, headline-grabbing legislation, we need to see safe routes for those fleeing conflict and persecution, including more options for family reunion, refugee visas, and cooperation with our European neighbours.

“We don’t need costly and unworkable laws – we need a fair and humane process that upholds the right to asylum, ensuring refugees are treated with dignity and respect.”