Migrants crossing the English Channel, September 2020 | Photo: picture-alliance/P. Bonniere
Migrants crossing the English Channel, September 2020 | Photo: picture-alliance/P. Bonniere

The French coast guard rescued 64 migrants in the Channel at the weekend who were attempting to cross the stretch of water towards the UK. The migrants, who were traveling on two separate boats, included children and a pregnant woman.

A total of 64 migrants were saved in operations by the French maritime emergency services this weekend. In one statement from the Prefecture for the Channel and the North Sea (Préfecture maritime de La Manche et de La Mer du Nord) on Sunday, details of a group of 19 migrants who got into difficulty off the coast of Boulogne were given.

According to the statement, a patrol boat from the French Customs and Border control localized the boat in distress at 5:20 am local time on Sunday, November 29. The boat was about 18 kilometers south-west of Boulogne.

'Suffering from hypothermia'

Two children were reportedly on board this boat, and all 19 migrants aboard "appeared to be suffering from hypothermia" said the statement from the prefecture. They were taken back to the harbor at Boulogne where they were handed over to fire and rescue personnel and the border police.

"They are all safe and sound thanks to the efficiency and the quick reaction times of our emergency services," read the statement.

On Saturday, November 28, the same prefecture carried out a similar operation off the coast of Leffrinckoucke. Here, they assisted 45 migrants who were "in difficulty." On this boat, read the statement, there were were 45 migrants, including "a pregnant woman and several children."

They were taken on board the patrol vessel Thémis. Several people on this boat also appeared to be suffering from hypothermia amid frosty temperatures along the French coast.

Back to Calais

The migrants were taken back to Calais, where again the fire and rescue services and the border police looked after them. They arrived back in Calais at about 6:40 pm local time on Saturday evening. Again, all migrants on this boat were declared "safe and sound," in the press statement.

The rescues come as the British and French governments agreed on a new raft of measures to try and crack down on migration across the Channel in the run-up to the UK's final departure from the EU at the end of the year.

According to a tweet from British Home Office minister (Interior Minister) Priti Patel, the new measures will include a "doubling of the number of police on beaches in France; increase surveillance with cutting edge technology; Introduce greater security at ports; Ensure accommodation for migrants in France."

New measures

More than 8,000 migrants have successfully crossed the English Channel this year. According to the British Home Office, French forces have already prevented "more than 5,000 attempts to cross the Channel so far this year."

The French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin also tweeted about the agreement on Sunday, saying that the agreement would "help fight against smuggling networks; bring additional effective controls along the coasts; and help to improve reception conditions for asylum seekers within France."

Both statements about the rescues from the prefecture ended with a warning to any migrants hoping to attempt the crossing in the coming days. It read: "This is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, and the meteorological conditions are often difficult. On average on 120 days a year, the wind is blowing stronger than a force seven, for instance, and so you could be endangering your lives."


More articles