The sharp increase in the number of migrants attempting to cross the English Channel is “deeply disturbing”, according to British Secretary of State for Immigration, Caroline Nokes, who was speaking after after thirty-four new migrants were rescued.
“The phenomenon is exploding,” Nokes said after French and English authorities noticed a marked increase in the number of small boats making the crossing in November. The journey, usually made in inflatable dinghies, is made particularly dangerous by the density of maritime traffic, the strong currents and the freezing temperature of the water.
On Wednesday night, eleven migrants – including five with hypothermia – were rescued off Calais in an inflatable boat as they attempted to reach England. Detected by several passenger ships that triggered the dispatch of a French patrol, they were taken care of by a relief boat. Nine others managed to reach Sandgate Beach in Kent in the south-east England, where they were stopped by police.
Rescue operations continued on Thursday morning. Around 8:30 am, six Iranian men reached a beach in Dover, also in Kent, aboard an inflatable boat, before being detained by border police for questioning. Fifteen minutes later, the border police intercepted eight other Iranian men off the Dover coast.
On Christmas Day alone, forty people from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan were rescued off the Pas-de-Calais as they attempted to reach England aboard five canoes, according to a report by the British Home Office. Another boat carrying three migrants was intercepted the following day.
These forty-three people, including two children, are now in the United Kingdom, “where they are being supported by the authorities or the competent rescue services, “ according to a spokesman for the British coastguard. Sixteen other migrants were also rescued on 23 December.
“Part [of this traffic] is clearly facilitated by criminal groups, while other attempts seem opportunistic,” noted Caroline Nokes on Thursday. “We maintain close and continuous contact with the French authorities and the partners of the authorities, notably via the new Franco-British information and coordination centre opened in Calais at the end of last month to fight against border crime” she said.