The French authorities rescued 61 migrants on Tuesday. At least 30 of them had to be plucked from the water after spending about 25 minutes in the sea.
Over 60 migrants, including small children, were rescued from a sinking boat in the English Channel on Tuesday (November 29). At least half were plucked directly from the sea after spending up to 25 minutes in the water, according to the news agency Reuters.
The French authorities confirmed that this was one of the largest emergency operations in recent months. More than 40,000 migrants have crossed from the French coast to the UK already this year, and although the weather is now decidedly colder, calm seas prompted a rush of recent crossings, reported Reuters.
The rubber dinghy the migrants were traveling upon had already started taking in water by the time authorities arrived. Officials told Reuters that the rescue took place about one nautical mile inside British territorial waters.
Migrants from several different countries on board
The rescued migrants, who said they left the French coast early Tuesday morning, reportedly included Afghan, Indian, Iranian and Pakistani nationals. The French regional newspaper La Voix du Nord reported that some of the others came from Albania, Sri Lanka and Turkey.
Before the rescue, the French authorities said they had already stopped around 50 migrants from attempting the crossing.
However, migrants have started launching boats into the sea in new ways, complicating rescue efforts.
"They now arrive with 'taxi boats' and the refugees are being asked to run into the water to catch them … rather than launching their own boats from the beach," said Guy Allemand, the mayor of a small village near Calais called Sangatte.
The rescued migrants were brought ashore at the port of Boulogne, where they were handed warm clothing and blankets by the emergency services, according to Reuters.
One of the migrants told Reuters that three women and three children were aboard. This has not been confirmed by rescue workers.
At least three of the migrants were reported to be suffering from hypothermia, and one teenager was taken to the hospital, according to La Voix du Nord.
'Some were so cold they had difficulty getting on the boat'
"[Some] were so cold they had difficulty getting on to our boat," one of the rescuers told La Voix du Nord. "We had to send a diver in to help them up. We just escaped it becoming another tragedy like last year."
The boat started taking on water because it was overloaded, one of the rescued migrants told La Voix du Nord.
"It wasn’t the motor that broke down, but there were a few really big waves, and that is what started it," they said.
'We are not allowed to drive them'
"We are not allowed to drive them," a spokesperson from volunteer group Osmose 62 told La Voix du Nord. "There is no bus, so we have no other choice but to escort them on foot."
Boulogne's deputy prefect Dominique Consille told La Voix du Nord that the rescued migrants had been looked after by volunteers and emergency workers, and that "anyone who needed care has been offered it."
"The state cannot stop people from getting on a bus, they are free to come and go as they please. The state does not offer transport from the coast back to town however," Consille said.
That's despite promises made this year by French authorities to start offering bus transport for those who were rescued and then left at the quayside, according to La Voix du Nord.
Consille said the city offered accommodation to the most vulnerable, but that several refused help.
Addressing questions about some of the single men who weren't offered short-term housing, Consille said "we cannot afford to pay for a hotel for every person who would like to get to England."
French weather channels have said that the region around Calais can expect cold temperatures this weekend and perhaps even the first flakes of snowfall by Monday.