71 migrants rescued in English Channel

Two rescue operations saw 71 migrants seeking to reach Britain in barely seaworthy craft picked up in the English Channel, the French maritime prefecture said Tuesday.

A tug intercepted the first vessel with 38 people aboard off Dunkirk on Monday night after it got into difficulty, then found itself picking up a further 33 from a second boat.

All those rescued were handed over to border police.

The past three years have seen a significant rise in attempted Channel crossings by migrants, with French officials saying 213 migrants were rescued inside two days earlier this month.

The attempts continue despite authorities’ warnings of the dangers to life in the busy shipping lane between northern France and southern England, which is also subject to strong currents and low temperatures.

French prefect Philippe Dutrieux said about 15,400 migrants attempted the crossing between January 1 and August 31 this year: 3,500 of them were recovered “in difficulty” before being brought back to France. 

In 2020, around 9,500 people made or attempted crossings, compared with 2,300 in 2019 and 600 in 2018.