France rescues 126 migrants attempting Channel crossing

French maritime officials rescued 126 migrants attempting to cross the Channel to Britain as tensions escalated over record arrivals on England's southern coast.

France rescues 126 migrants attempting Channel crossing
Britain's RNLI sea rescue organisation taking rescued migrants ashore earlier this month. Photo: Ben Stansall/AFP

At least 14,100 people have now crossed the Channel to the UK on small boats this year, according to Britain’s domestic Press Association news agency — some 6,000 more than for the whole of 2020.

A record 828 people crossed over from France on a single day in late August, as traffickers took advantage of favourable late-summer weather.

French maritime authorities said Saturday that a first vessel transporting 43 people, including six women and two babies, was intercepted by a patrol boat after encountering problems.

Forty migrants were rescued in another operation. Another 43 were picked up from the Channel waters after sending out a distress signal.

France has a policy of not intercepting or turning back migrant boats unless they ask for help, and instead escorts them to British waters.   

That has stoked anger in Brexit-supporting sections of the British media and the government in London, who accuse France of shirking its responsibilities.

Illegal Channel crossings have ballooned since the end of 2018 despite repeated warnings by French authorities of the perilous journey, fraught with heavy maritime traffic, icy waters and strong currents.

Since 2018, French authorities have confirmed 11 deaths and three people are missing.

Member comments

  1. Surely child endangerment is a crime in France. Why would that not warrant intercepting these boats ? Apart from that , aren’t all on board witnesses or party to people trafficking – why would that not warrant their arrest ? Setting out to sea in an unseaworthy craft would be criminal in Britain and the responsibility of the coastguard to stop – not in France ?

  2. good points Alan Stuart
    The only way to stop smuggling is to break up the gangs
    But this is not something France appears to be having much success with
    But it also seems that the French have an attitude of let them go to the UK so we do not have to deal with them
    Also you have to remember human rights laws state that a person can claim asylum in a country of their choosing
    therefore we do need to find a way of processing the claims – quickly – in France – then allowing safe passage as a foot passenger on a north sea ferry

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