From file: Migrants are rescued off the coast of France | Photo: Société nationale de sauvetage en mer (SNSM) de Dunkerque
From file: Migrants are rescued off the coast of France | Photo: Société nationale de sauvetage en mer (SNSM) de Dunkerque

Two children were among more than 120 migrants who were rescued on Monday as they were trying to cross the English Channel from France. The migrants were brought to safety by French authorities.

French authorities were alerted to four separate migrant boats in distress in the Channel on Monday, July 12. The largest boat with 55 migrants on board was picked up off Équihen Beach, some 50 kilometers south of Calais, and returned to the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer by a search and rescue team.

Another boat with 37 people on board was stranded on a sandbank off the coast of Dunkirk. Rescue boats were unable to reach the area, so the passengers had to be brought to safety by helicopter.

"The French Navy helicopter made successive landings from the sandbank to the mainland, but had to hoist the last five shipwrecked people from the water, which had completely covered the sandbank in less than 20 minutes," local authorities for the Channel and North Sea area reported.

Two other boats were reported to be in distress off Gravelines and Sangatte, according to authorities. Search and rescue teams picked up 27 migrants from the shipwrecked boat in the Gravelines area and took them to the French port of Calais, where they were handed over to border police. Four migrants on board the boat found off Sangatte were also handed over to police in Calais.

France warns of Channel danger

French authorities said that all of those rescued on Monday were safe. But they warned migrants who plan to cross the Channel that it is one of the busiest shipping areas in the world, and weather conditions are difficult, with winds often reaching force 7. At least four people died in the English Channel in 2019, while there were six deaths and three missing persons in 2020, according to the AFP news agency.

Despite the dangers on the busy shipping route, crossings of migrants across the English Channel have increased significantly since the end of 2018. Last year, more than 9,500 such crossings or attempted crossings were recorded, four times more than in 2019.

At the same time, however, the number of asylum applications in the UK is comparatively low. In the year ending March 2021, there were 26,903 asylum applications in the UK, around a quarter (24%) fewer than the previous year and similar to levels in 2017. 

Despite these figures, the UK government is committed to addressing the country’s “broken asylum system" and has introduced a tough new Borders Bill. The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, wants to stop migrants crossing the Channel in boats and lorries from "safe third countries" such as France and "make it easier to remove illegal arrivals with no right to be here." The new law makes an offence of "illegal entry", attracting a sentence of up to four years imprisonment.

With AFP


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