14 Iranian migrants have been rescued after trying to cross the English Channel in two dinghies. The Dover Strait where they were apprehended is the world’s busiest shipping lane.
They were not the first, and perhaps will not be the last. In fact, more than 100 migrants have attempted to cross the Channel between France and the UK in the last couple of months. The numbers are being called a "spike" by many British media outlets. The shipping lane between France and the UK is the world’s busiest. For this reason, as well as the low temperatures and often bad weather for much of the year, the UK authorities have issued warnings about the dangers that migrants face if they attempt such a crossing. One official compared trying to cross the shipping lane to walking across a busy motorway on foot.
Taking on water
A BBC video showed one of the small inflatable dinghies with an outboard motor containing five men and one woman who claimed to be Iranian nationals. The group was picked up by British lifesavers a couple of miles from Dover, after they apparently veered off course.
The migrants were taken to hospital for medical checks and then for interviews by immigration authorities. One fishing boat has assisted in the rescue of several such boats in the last few months.
A route through Serbia
According to Refugee Aid Serbia, many of the Iranians who have attempted the Channel crossing entered the EU via Serbia. In August 2017 Serbia offered visa free access to Iranians in order to boost tourism. The policy was quickly cancelled after more than 10,000 didn’t turn up for their flight home. It is thought many of those then tried, with the help of smugglers, to make the dangerous journey across Serbia and into the EU, often clinging to the chassis of lorries in order to arrive undetected.
British news media say that many of these people are middle class and educated. They aim for Britain because the UK government has given asylum to large numbers of Iranians in the past. There is also an established community already in the country.
The BBC listed 12 similar crossings since November 3 this year. One of the boats contained an 18 month old baby, others had a toddler and three children. Although the migrants appeared to be predominantly men, there were also some women present. On some crossings, the migrants were found to be suffering from hypothermia. Apart from the risk of cold, the French and British authorities both worry that these boats will cause a collision, leading to deaths.