From file: A French rescue helicopter lands close to a rescue vessel in Dunkirk, northern France, | Photo: AP Photo
From file: A French rescue helicopter lands close to a rescue vessel in Dunkirk, northern France, | Photo: AP Photo

French maritime authorities have rescued another 108 migrants attempting to cross the Channel between Britain and France. The migrants were in four separate boats which got into trouble near the French coast.

On Wednesday, August 11, a French navy patrol boat rescued a small boat carrying seven people "in difficulty" off the coast of Sangatte, just south of Calais. The seven migrants were taken to the nearby port of Dunkirk.

The same patrol boat, the Flamant, then picked up 29 "shipwrecked" migrants not far from Dunkirk. One person needed medical attention and was taken by helicopter to hospital in Dunkirk. The rest were taken to land in Dunkirk and looked after by the fire and emergency service there.

Officials also reported a further 37 migrants who got into difficulty near Calais and another 35 off Dunkirk, according to Agence France Presse (AFP).

'Several boats in difficulty'

The regional Prefecture for the Channel and the North Sea and the rescue coordination center CROSS Gris-Nez issued a press release on Wednesday, saying they had been "informed that several migrant boats had got into difficulty in the Pas-de-Calais region."

Everyone is "safe and sound," according to the press release, thanks to the "quick reactions and efficiency of the emergency services involved."

As always, the press release concludes with a warning to anyone thinking of putting to sea, reminding migrants that the Channel is one of the busiest shipping routes in the world, the meteorological conditions can often be difficult as there are "more than 120 days of wind a year which blows at more than a 'force 7' which can be a danger to human life."

More than 10,000 migrants are reported to have crossed the Channel to the UK this year alone, compared to 8,000 in all of 2020. According to AFP, six people died in the Channel in 2020 and three more disappeared. In 2019, four deaths were recorded in the area.

'Cleared of charges'

On the other side of the Channel, in the UK, an Iranian asylum seeker who was charged with people smuggling after he piloted the small boat on which he and a group of others crossed the Channel in 2020 has now been cleared of the charge of "people smuggling," after he was found not guilty at appeal in May, according to a report by the BBC.

The man, Fouad Kakaei said he had been made a "scapegoat" by the British authorities. In an initial trial in January this year, Kakaei was found guilty of the charges and sentenced to two years and two months in prison. He then appealed against his conviction and has now been cleared. The appeal court found that "it could not be proven he intended to avoid detection and enter the UK illegally, as the dingy [on which he was traveling] was intercepted by Border Force and all those onboard claimed asylum."

According to the BBC, last year 54 people were charged with "facilitating illegal entry into the UK across the Channel." However, "33 of them were subsequently identified as asylum seekers," with "18 of those going on to face prosecution." This information was obtained after they served a Freedom of Information request on the Home Office, says the BBC.

A Border Force officer labels a boat thought to have been used in a migrant crossing as a group of people thought to be migrants are brought into Dover, Kent, following a small boat incident in the Channel, April 20, 2021 | Photo: Gareth Fuller/picture alliance
A Border Force officer labels a boat thought to have been used in a migrant crossing as a group of people thought to be migrants are brought into Dover, Kent, following a small boat incident in the Channel, April 20, 2021 | Photo: Gareth Fuller/picture alliance

Making migrants 'easy targets'

The lawyer representing Fouad Kakaei said he worried the government was making migrants “easy targets” by prosecuting them. Like many others who cross the Channel, Kakaei said he had paid smugglers to get hiim to the UK. He said that once he boarded the boat, he could see that "the condition of the boat was not satisfactory and nobody was able to steer it."

Kakaei said that because "I could see everybody’s life was in danger, to save myself and the lives of the rest...I started to take control of the boat." He added it was "a matter of life and death."

Kakaei actually made the journey across the Channel twice, reports the BBC. After the first time he was deported by the UK authorities to Denmark because he had already started an asylum process there. But he says the Danish authorities had rejected his claim.

Past five years in Europe have been 'hell'

Kakaei claims his life was in danger in Iran but that the past five years in Europe have also been "hell."

According to the BBC, because of Kakaei’s successful appeal, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) subsequently reviewed "all similar cases and scrapped 12" of them, which also involved people accused of piloting small boats. There are currently seven active cases, said the BBC. The CPS has issued new guidelines on prosecuting this type of case.

The government has continued to state that it will get tough on those who try and enter the UK without the correct papers via illegal routes and that they will "crack down on illegal entry and the criminality associated with it," said the Home Office in a statement to the BBC.

With AFP and BBC

 

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