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British boat rescues migrants trying to cross Channel

A hand out image made available by France’s Societe Nationale de Sauvetage en Mer (SNSM) on February 18, 2019, shows British rescuers (front) helping some 20 migrants on a semi-rigid boat trying make their way from France across the English Channel. – Twenty migrants who tried to reach England aboard a motorboat were intercepted in the Channel by the British authorities in the English zone, said the maritime prefecture on February 18, 2019. “A fishing vessel gave the alert a little after 8am”, after spotting this group of “18 to 20 migrants” off Cape Gris-Nez, said the same source. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN / SOCIETE NATIONAL DE SAUVETAGE EN MER / AFP)

A British boat rescued 34 migrants crossing the Channel aboard a small motorised boat on Monday, Britain’s interior ministry said.

“Today Border Force responded to an incident in the Channel involving a small boat containing 34 people,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The group were brought to Dover and have been transferred to immigration officials for interview,” it added, saying that men, women and children were on board and that three men were arrested on suspicion of immigration offences.

French authorities earlier said that “a fishing boat gave the alarm shortly after 8:00 am (0700 GMT)” after spotting the boat off the tip of northern France.

French navy, police and customs launched a helicopter, a tug boat and three fast vessels, while sea rescue services also tried to rescue the migrants.

By the time they reached the migrants’ location, however, “they had crossed over to the English side” of the Channel where they were picked up by a British vessel, said the regional authority in northern France.

Two British Border Force cutters and a coastal patrol vessel were involved in the rescue, according to UK authorities.

Some 500 people — most of them over the last two months of 2018 — attempted to cross the Channel to Britain last year, compared with just 13 known attempts in 2017.

French interior ministry figures show 276 people successfully reached British waters last year.

London in December dispatched a navy ship to help coastguard boats watch over the 21 miles (33 kilometres) of sea that separate France and Britain at its narrowest point.

France also responded by announcing broader surveillance measures in early January.

The number of Channel crossings was just a tiny fraction of the 55,756 successful attempts made across the Mediterranean to Spain that were recorded by the UN’s refugee agency in 2018.

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