The Home Secretary and her French counterpart have described the incident in the English Channel on Wednesday as a “stark reminder of the urgent need to destroy the business model of people-smugglers”.
The statement said: “We have prevented more than 30,000 crossings so far this year, and together with other European partners, including Europol, we have made over 500 arrests since 2020.
“We recently agreed on a renewed bilateral framework to tackle illegal migration, with closer joint working and intelligence sharing, more French officers equipped with cutting-edge technology patrolling the French coast and UK and French officers working with each other’s law enforcement teams as embedded observers.
“We also held a meeting in Calais format (Germany, Belgium, France, Great Britain, Netherlands) in Brussels on December 8 and resolved, with our European neighbours, to intensify our police, border and judicial cooperation, with the support of EU agencies.
“Today’s tragic incident underlines the importance of taking this forward together.”
The Royal Navy, French navy, Coastguard and RNLI lifeboats were all involved in a major rescue operation off the Kent coast on Wednesday morning.
RNLI lifeboats were launched from Dover at 3.07am, followed by more from Ramsgate and Hastings.
A Government spokesman said: “At 0305 today, authorities were alerted to an incident in the Channel concerning a migrant small boat in distress.
“After a co-ordinated 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.”
Nikolai Posner, the charity’s communications officer, told the paper the 22-second WhatsApp voice message was left at 1.53am UK time.
In the message, a man can reportedly be heard pleading for help and saying: “We are in the water and we have family.”
In the Commons, Mr Sunak said: “I’m sure the whole House will share my sorrow at the capsizing of a small boat 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.”