French coast guards on Sunday intercepted a small boat attempting to cross the English Channel to the UK with nine migrants on board including a child with mild hypothermia, it said in a statement.
The nine migrants — eight men and a minor — were recovered at about 0800 CEST some 5.5 kms west of Cap Gris-Nez and have since been brought to Calais, some 25 kms east, where they were handed over to border authorities.
“The maritime prefect of the Channel and the North Sea warns migrants not to cross the Channel, one of the world’s busiest areas, and therefore dangerous for human life,” the statement also said.
The number of people trying to reach the UK illegally by crossing the Channel soared last year. According to figures from Britain’s Home Office, more than 500 migrants — most claiming to be Iranian nationals — attempted the risky journey in 2018 compared to just 13 the previous year.
About 80% of the attempts took place in the last three months of the year and half of the migrants — about 250 — were stopped in December alone.
A further 90 people were stopped in January “and the levels in February are similarly low”, Steve Rodhouse, the Director General of Operations at Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) told a parliamentary committee earlier this year.
To tackle the surge in attempted crossings, Britain declared a national emergency in late December and recalled two border vessels then-deployed in the Mediterranean Sea, bringing the number of British vessels patrolling the Channel to four.
Migrants also attempt to reach the UK through the Channel Tunnel and ferries. Four people smugglers were sentenced to 10 years in jail last month after being found guilty of conspiring to “bring illegal migrants into the UK from France in a lorry,” according to the NCA.