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More than half of illegal migrant boats reach UK

By JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-11-06 09:18
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Number of people attempting to cross English Channel increased significantly

The Border Force vessel 'Nimrod' patrols the English Channel on January 02, 2019 in Dover, England. Following a number of small vessels carrying migrants crossing the Channel from France, the British Government has re-assigned two more Border Force vessels to the area. [Photo/VCG]

The number of migrants attempting to cross the English Channel illegally in small boats has risen sharply compared with 2018, with almost five times more efforts being successful.

In the first 10 months of 2019, nearly 1,500 people successfully crossed the English Channel to reach the United Kingdom illegally, according to information released by French authorities.

The figures show that more than five small boats carrying migrants have set sail for England on average each week this year.

More than 1,460 people have crossed successfully, with 1,105 stopped in France, according to the information released by the Pas-de-Calais prefecture.

In May, UK Home Office figures showed 562 migrants were recorded as attempting to cross in 2018. Of these, 297 arrived in the UK.

Experts on the UK side of the water are now asking if more could be done to prevent people risking their lives by crossing one of the world's busiest sea routes in small boats.

Governments on both sides of the Channel have pledged to make crossings an "infrequent phenomenon" by the spring, but a former coastguard told the BBC it was likely crossings would rise again when conditions improved.

Of the 237 boats that were intercepted in the first 10 months of this year, 99 were stopped by the French authorities. In October more than 70 people made the journey successfully-mainly via Kent- despite the introduction of an "enhanced action plan" on both sides of the Channel.

Fishing boat skipper Matthew Coker told the BBC he has rescued migrants and believes the French could do more.

"I've seen, more than a couple of times now, French warships escorting the migrant vessels through the northeast shipping lane, which is the shipping lane on the French side," said Coker.

"I wouldn't say they are assisting them, but I would say they are turning a blind eye."

Former coast guard Andy Roberts told the broadcaster he believes the French may be letting some of the migrants travel across.

"It's going to continue, I think right through to the summer when it will spike again and there will be an increase in numbers," said Roberts.

Calais MP Pierre-Henri Dumont denies French warships are escorting boats into UK waters.

Dumont, who chairs the French Parliament's Brexit committee, said between five and 10 boats were being prevented from leaving France every night.

"We stop maybe 90 percent of the total of all the boats leaving the French coast," he said.

Figures from the Pas-de-Calais prefecture also revealed 11,952 migrants had been found hidden in trucks or trailers, at the Port of Calais and a further 7,911 at the Eurotunnel terminal.

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