PARIS: French maritime authorities say 18 migrants have been pulled from boats in the English Channel as they tried to illegally reach British shores.

The regional maritime service said in a statement on Thursday that a helicopter and rescue ships saved 11 migrants overnight whose boat was in distress off the coast of the French town of Wimereux. Four migrants were hospitalised with hypothermia and the others handed over to border police in Calais.

The statement says a patrol ship discovered another boat carrying seven migrants and alerted British authorities who intercepted it near the British coast.

Authorities shut down a sprawling migrant slum in Calais in 2016, but migrants continue to cluster there. Most try to sneak to Britain on trucks travelling in ferries or in the tunnel under the Channel.

French authorities warned of a spike in migrants attempting the dangerous crossing of the English Channel by boat to reach Britain, which could reflect fears the border will be shut after Brexit.“We’re dealing with a situation that’s getting worse,” she said, adding that France was reinforcing its patrols in the Channel.

Britain’s interior ministry said on Thursday that 14 people had been rescued overnight, bringing the total number to 78 in the last two weeks.

“We have stepped up deployments of our coastal patrol vessels along the South-East coast in light of recent events,” the ministry said.

Migrants have long massed along France’s northern coast hoping to stow away on trucks heading for Britain, where many have family or believe they stand a better chance of getting asylum or finding a job.

But starting in 2016, officials began seeing attempts by migrants to use dinghies and inflatable rafts to cross the 33-kilometre (20-mile) Strait of Dover, one of the world’s busiest shipping channels.

Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2018

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