PARIS – A British boat rescued between 18 and 20 migrants crossing the Channel aboard a small motorized boat Monday, French maritime authorities said.
“A fishing boat gave the alarm shortly after 8:00 a.m. (0700 GMT)” after spotting the boat off the tip of northern France, authorities said.
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, believed to include children.
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.
British media reports said a lifeboat from the southern English coast and a Royal Navy cutter were involved in the rescue.
Some 500 people — most of them over the last two months of the year — attempted to cross the Channel to Britain in 2018, compared to just 13 known attempts the previous year.
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 km) 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 Mediterranean to Spain that were recorded by the U.N.’s refugee agency in 2018.