Belgium authorities have brought 49 mostly Vietnamese migrants to shore after their boat ran into difficulties, according to an official. They were trying to reach the UK and it is thought they set off from France.
The rescue by the coast guard took place off the Belgian coast on Wednesday (May 19), the dpa news agency reported, citing the Belgian news agency Belga.
According to news agency AFP, authorities received an emergency call early Wednesday. Water had entered the vessel, yet all passengers were still on board when the coast guard arrived on the scene.
"They are in good health, several had light symptoms of hypothermia," according to a statement by the public prosecutor's office in the city of Brügge.
Belgian police regularly intercept migrants near the port of Zeebrügge trying to cross the English Channel hidden in trucks. Sea rescues happen less often.
According to AFP, Vietnamese migrants are among those camped out at Grande-Synthe next to the city of Dunkirk on the northern French coast near the Belgian border. From there, they try to find a way to reach the UK.
"The migrants are brought to the Channel coast from their southeast Asian homeland by a network that flies them to Moscow and then transports them through Europe," AFP reported.
Last month, a Vietnamese teenager wanted in connection with a people smuggling operation which led to the deaths of 39 migrants en route to England should be extradited to Belgium.
Belgian authorities accuse the eighteen-year-old of operating the "safe house" that held 39 Vietnamese migrants who suffocated in the back of a lorry in southern England in late 2019. He also allegedly arranged to get the migrants out of Belgium.
With dpa, AFP