FOUR people have tragically died after a migrant boat capsized five miles off the Kent coast in the icy Channel waters this morning.
Search teams managed to rescue 43 people from the water after a desperate distress call came in just after half past three this morning.
But authorities confirmed this morning that four people had died in the terrible tragedy.
Pictures from Dover showed the migrants, including young children wrapped up against the elements with life jackets still on, being taken ashore.
Many were carried onto land by port officials, while sirens rang out as ambulances rushed to nearby hospitals.
Shocking footage showed the survivors standing in the collapsed dinghy, knee-deep in water.
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Some can be seen wearing red life jackets, but others did not have one.
It appears that the flimsy inflatable sustained a puncture, causing it to sink.
Channel Rescue, an organisation that monitors Channel crossings, believes that there were about 50 people on board the small boat.
A Government spokesperson said: "At 0305 today, authorities were alerted to an incident in the Channel concerning a migrant small boat in distress.
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"After a coordinated search and rescue operation led by HM Coastguard, it is with regret that there have been four confirmed deaths as a result of this incident, investigations are ongoing and we will provide further information in due course.
"This is a truly tragic incident. Our thoughts are with the friends and families of all those who have lost their lives today."
Royal Navy, RNLI and Coast Guard vessels faced a race against time to save the migrants as temperatures plunged to -3C last night.
Forensic tents have been put up at the RNLI station in the Port of Dover.
Addressing the tragedy at Prime Minister's Questions today, Rishi Sunak said: "Mr Speaker, I'm sure the whole house will share my sorrow with the capsizing of a small boats in the channel in the early hours of this morning, and the tragic loss of human life.
"Our hearts go out to all those affected and our tributes to those involved in the extensive rescue operation."
The Home Secretary is expected to make a Commons statement at 12.30pm.
It comes after Mr Sunak set out his five point plan for ending illegal migration yesterday.
Paul Bristow MP tweeted that incidents like today's are "exactly why the plan outlined yesterday has to work, legal challenges should end, and the boats must stop!"
Bill Wiggin MP agreed, saying: "There are serious problems within the home office and we need to keep up the pressure on to ensure the reforms work so we don't have tragic accidents like the one in the channel today."
Vessels involved in the search included two RNLI lifeboats, Royal Navy patrol boat HMS Severn, two fishing boats and a French coastguard patrol.
An ambulance was spotted pulling up at Dover Harbour, where migrants are usually brought ashore.
Sea temperatures in the Channel fell to 12C today, compared with an all time low of 10C.
A former UK Border Force chief told The Sun that due to the perilous wintry conditions over the Channel, there could be even more fatalities.
Kevin Saunders said: "I think there will be more deaths. We dispatched a helicopter to search, but if it was dark then there is not much hope."
A spokesperson for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: "HM Coastguard is currently coordinating a search and rescue response to an incident involving a small boat off Kent, working with the Navy, Border Force, Kent Police and other partners.
"We have sent Dover, Dungeness, Hastings and Ramsgate RNLI lifeboats and Deal, Dungeness and Folkestone coastguard rescue teams, along with the coastguard area commander.
"HM Coastguard helicopters from Lydd and Lee on Solent and one from the French Navy are involved. A fishing vessel in the area is also assisting in the rescue. South East Coast Ambulance and Kent Police are working with us and an air ambulance has been sent.
"The incident is ongoing and we have no further information."
They added: "HM Coastguard will continue to safeguard life around the seas and coastal areas of the UK, working with search and rescue resources in the area. If a vessel needs search and rescue assistance, HM Coastguard will continue to respond to all those in need."
Meanwhile, Home Secretary Suella Braverman tweeted: "I am aware of a distressing incident in the Channel this morning and I am being kept constantly updated while agencies respond and urgently establish the full facts.
"My heartfelt thoughts are with all those involved."
Dover MP Natalie Elphicke also offered her sympathies, saying: "I am very saddened to hear that lives are feared to have been lost following a small boat tragedy in the English Channel this morning.
"My thoughts and prayers are with all those involved."
A South East Coast Ambulance Service spokesperson said: "South East Coast Ambulance Service was called by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency following reports of an incident in the channel at about 3.40am on Wednesday, 14 December.
"We have sent resources to Dover in support of the rescue efforts being undertaken by the Coastguard. As this is an ongoing incident, we have no further updates at this time."
The tragic incident will prompt fears of deaths and provokes echoes of a similar case last November, when a small boat carrying 34 migrants sank in the Channel, killing 31 people.
It comes after PM Rishi Sunak yesterday set out a plan for controlling Britain's borders.
The number of people arriving by dinghy since June has skyrocketed to 30,000.
Mr Sunak's plan includes ending the use of tax-payer funded hotels to house migrants, tightening the definition of modern slavery and forming a small boats operational command to hunt down evil people smugglers.
Addressing MPs in the Commons, the PM blasted: "It is unfair that people come here illegally.
"It is not cruel or unkind to want to break the stranglehold of criminal gangs who trade in human misery, and who exploit our system, and laws.
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"Enough is enough."
The PM also pledged to clear the ballooning asylum backlog by the end of 2023.
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