Belgian authorities on Sunday said they rescued 15 migrants from a rubber dinghy that was taking in water 11 kilometers off the Belgian coast. The migrants were attempting to reach the United Kingdom from France.
The migrants left the town of Dunkirk in northern France
late Friday, according to AFP. Several hours later the inflatable raft they
were traveling on began to take in water.
One passenger managed to make an emergency call, alerting Belgian coast guards who found the sinking boat around 11 kilometers off the Belgian coast and brought the migrants to safety, writes AFP.
They were taken to the Belgian port of Ostende, Belgian authorities said on Sunday, June 28.
The rubber dinghy only had a capacity of 7 people. All passengers were male adults, reportedly from Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait, a prosecutor's statement said.
More and more crossings on rubber boats
"Human traffickers increasingly put migrants onto small rubber boats and push them out into the North Sea, usually from the French coast," said Frank Demeester, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office. The objective, Demeester reckons, is for the migrants to get close to British waters to be taken to the UK after placing a distress call.
According to AFP, no arrests have been made in the latest operation, but prosecutors announced they will make use of phone evidence to identify potential human traffickers involved in the incident.
On Thursday, June 25, Belgian and British police in a joint operation arrested 12 people suspected of migrant smuggling. The gang allegedly operated by transporting migrants on sailboats from the Netherlands to the UK, InfoMigrants French reports.
Migrant crossings of the English Channel have multiplied in recent months. On June 3, a record total of 166 persons managed to reach the UK in one day. Over 2,000 migrants have managed to cross the Channel since the beginning of the year.