French coast guard intercepts nine migrants attempting to cross the English Channel

On Sunday 19 May, the French coast guard intercepted a small boat attempting to cross the English Channel with nine migrants on board. The eight men and a child, who identified themselves as Iranians, were returned to France.

A French border patrol vessel spotted the small boat about 25 kilometres off the coast of Calais. The migrants were brought in and handed over to border authorities. The child was suffering from mild hypothermia.

A statement issued by the local border patrol said: “The maritime prefect of the Channel and the North Sea warns migrants not to cross the Channel, one of the world’s busiest areas, and therefore dangerous for human life.”.

Since October 2018, there has been an increase in the number of migrants attempting to cross the English Channel despite the dangers including heavy shipping traffic, strong currents and low water temperatures. Migrants also attempt to reach the UK through the Channel Tunnel by stowing away on-board lorries bound for Britain.

Many migrants end up paying huge sums of money to smugglers to help them enter the UK illegally. A recent report from the UK National Crime Agency (NCA) said organised crime groups are active in camps like Calais and beyond, with rival groups even working together to secure cash from desperate migrants. It estimates that vulnerable migrants pay smugglers up to GBP 13,000 to get them into the UK.

The report said border controls have been helping to catch and intercept migrants attempting to enter the UK illegally as “part of an arrangement between the UK, France and Belgium, whereby immigration checks on certain cross-Channel routes take place before boarding a train or ferry, rather than on arrival.”

According to the Dublin Regulation, migrants can only apply for asylum in the first EU country they reach. Since January, the UK has returned over 30 migrants back to France or other EU member states.

In addition to strict security controls on both sides of the English Channel, British authorities have been cracking down on people smugglers. In recent months, dozens of migrant smugglers have been imprisoned for recklessly endangering human lives and facilitating illegal entry in to the UK, according to the UK National Crime Agency.

TMP – 03/06/2019

Photo credit: French Coast Guard (Gendarmerie maritime)

Photo caption: French border patrol off Cape Gris-Nez on an operation to rescue nine Iranian migrants. 19 May 2019.