Nearly 2,500 migrants trying to cross the English Channel to reach Britain were rescued at sea in 2019, four times more than last year, according to an assessment by the authorities, who added that four people died during attempted crossings. In total, 261 “cases of crossings” or “attempted crossings” by sea were identified this year by the French and British authorities, carried out mainly by small inflatable boats often overloaded, according to the prefecture of La Manche and the North Sea.
On the British side, the Home office reported that more than 125 migrants who entered the UK illegally using small boats had been returned to Europe since January. “Individuals entering the UK illegally must not doubt our determination to return them to Europe as it is an established principle that people seeking protection must seek asylum in the first safe country they reach” A Home Office spokesperson said in a statement.
Again on Tuesday, a light boat was reported to be “in trouble” about 11 km north of Dunkirk before being intercepted. The six men on board, including “some in hypothermia”, were brought back to the port of Calais. The authorities had already assisted about fifty migrants since Sunday morning, during several rescues. On December 26, 71 migrants had this time been intercepted in the early morning, in thick fog, spread over five boats off the French coast. For their part, the British also intercepted three boats on Tuesday, carrying a total of 43 people.
Since the end of 2018, crossings have continued to multiply in the English Channel, despite repeated warnings from the authorities stressing the danger linked to the density of traffic, strong currents and low water temperature. According to the Prefecture of Pas-de-Calais, where “95%” of boats leave, the “action plan” aimed at “ending” these crossings announced in January by the Ministry of the Interior is “producing results”.
“Over the past year, 55% of the crossings have been intercepted” thanks to “the strong mobilisation of French public forces at sea and on land,” said the prefect of Pas-de-Calais Fabien Sudry in Le Monde.