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Migrants head to Normandy ports hunting new way to UK

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Photo: Mairie de Barneville-Carteret.
17:24 CET+01:00
Migrants desperate to get to the UK are giving up on trying to sneak on a boat or cross-Channel train in Calais and are instead heading to other ports and coastal towns across Normandy, according to reports.

With millions spent on boosting security in Calais, migrants - often helped by people traffickers - are taking their chances at other crossing points along the north coast of France.

Concerns were raised in Barneville-Carteret, a tiny port town on the picturesque Contention peninsula, that it could become a focal point for traffickers looking to smuggle migrants to the British island of Jersey, after a group of refugees were picked up recently.

The little port, which is the gateway to the British-owned islands of Guernsey and Jersey, is home to around 20 fishing trawlers and 200 private boats.

In a powerful boat British soil is only a 30-minute boat ride away.

There were reports this week of 20 migrants being picked up off the coast in a motor boat on their way to Jersey.

It was the Jersey Evening Post that made the claim, which was confirmed by authorities on the island. However local government chiefs in Normandy angrily denied the claim, according to Le Point magazine.

French authorities did however acknowledge that a group of 20 or so migrants and refugees had been seen in the town.

A member of the local yacht club told The Local that the group of migrants were actually stopped before they could set off by boat.

The town's own mayor Pierre Gehanne, told Ouest France newspaper that he had become suspicious about the presence of a motor boat on a trailer in the car park of the port. It contained around 10 life vests, suggesting that people smugglers may be operating in the town.

He said the boat's registration plate had been painted over.

While the incident remains shrouded in mystery, what is certain is that authorities in port towns across Normandy, where ferries sail daily to the UK, have noticed an increasing number of migrants in the town.

In Dieppe, where only two boats run daily to the UK, the number of migrants camping out in the town has doubled to 100 in recent weeks.

The same has been reported at the port of Ouistreham near Caen.

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But it is the port of Cherbourg where the biggest influx has been noticed.

According to reports, migrants have made around 400 attempts to get on boats at the port since the beginning of the year. That's more than the number of attempts recorded for the whole of 2015.

Around 100 refugees or migrants have been arrested attempting to get across the Channel via Cherbourg.

Local government chief Jacques Witkowski has announced that more checks on trucks coming into the port will be made as well as at the train station.

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