Speaking outside a hospital in Calais, Darmanin said five women and a little girl were among the dead. Two people were rescued and one person is still missing, he said.
French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson both expressed their horror at the tragedy and sent their condolences to the families of the victims.
Macron said his country would not let the English Channel become a graveyard and urged his European counterparts to redouble their efforts to avoid future tragedies.
“To the families of the victims, to their loved ones, I would like to express my compassion and France’s unconditional support,” the president said in a statement.
“I assure them that everything will be done to find and condemn those responsible, the networks of smugglers who exploit misery and distress, endanger human lives and end up decimating families,” he added.
Macron said France had been working with the UK for several months to dismantle the smuggling rings.
“Since the start of 2021, thanks to the mobilization of 600 police and gendarmes, 1,552 smugglers have been arrested on the north coast and 44 smugglers’ networks have been dismantled,” he said.
“Despite this action, 47,000 attempts to cross to Great Britain have been made since January 1, with 7,800 migrants rescued by our rescue services.”
The country’s Minister of the Sea, Annick Girardin, said French, British and Belgian helicopters were looking for the missing.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex called the incident a “tragedy”. “My thoughts are with the many missing and injured, victims of criminal smugglers who exploit their distress and misery,” he said in a tweet.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “shocked and dismayed, and deeply saddened by the loss of life at sea”.
“My thoughts and sympathy are first with the victims and their families, and it is a terrible thing that they have suffered,” Johnson told reporters.
“But I also want to say that this disaster underlines how dangerous it is to cross the Channel in this way. And it also shows how vital it is that we now step up our efforts to break the business model of the gangsters who send money. people take the sea in this way, and that is why it is so important that we speed up if possible all the measures contained in our borders …
He added that the authorities “would spare no effort for the business proposition of human traffickers and gangsters … who literally get away with murder.”
Johnson said it was time for the UK, France and Europe to “step up” and work together. He was scheduled to chair a Cobra emergency committee meeting in response to the tragedy, his spokesperson said.
British Home Secretary Priti Patel said in a statement that the tragedy “serves as the most brutal reminder possible of the dangers of these Channel crossings organized by ruthless criminal gangs”.
She added: “We will continue to intensify all cooperation with France and other European partners to prevent migrants from embarking on these deadly journeys.”
On Monday, the French Interior Ministry announced the shipment of equipment and vehicles worth more than 11 million euros ($ 12.3 million) as part of a deal with the Kingdom -Uni, “to secure the coastal strip extending over more than 130 km, from Dunkirk to the Baie de Somme.”
He added that “the police and gendarmes will have additional resources to carry out the mission of combating illegal immigration”.
Last week, 243 people were rescued in the English Channel as they attempted to cross to the UK.
More than 25,700 people have crossed the Channel to the UK so far this year in small boats, according to data compiled by UK news agency PA Media. That’s three times the total for all of 2020, reports PA.
CNN’s Amy Cassidy and Joseph Ataman contributed to this report.