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France rescues 61 migrants in channel

French authorities have rescued dozens of migrants trying to cross the English Channel as unusually mild weather encourages a hike in departures.

November 30, 2022
By Pascal Rossignol and Yann Tessier
30 November 2022

France has rescued 61 migrants including small children in the English Channel in one of the largest emergency operations in recent months as calm seas drew a rush of migrants in small boats toward the coast of Britain.

Rescue workers in the port of Boulogne, where the migrants were brought ashore, said about 30 people had to be plucked out of the cold waters as they rushed to climb aboard a French rescue vessel from their rubber dinghy, which had been taking on water.

Officials said the rescue took place about one nautical mile inside British territorial waters.

Afghan, Indian, Iranian and Pakistani nationals were aboard the dinghy, which left the French coast early on Tuesday morning, the refugees said.

At the quayside, the migrants were handed fresh clothing and heat-retaining blankets by emergency workers.

French police earlier on Tuesday had stopped close to 50 migrants from trying to cross the channel after mild weather and calm waters led a growing number of people to undertake the dangerous journey in recent days.

Guy Allemand, the mayor of Sangatte near Calais, said police forced some migrants to turn back, but another 100 had made it to the open waters.

He told Reuters that migrant trafficking networks had recently changed their methods.

“They now arrive with ‘taxi boats’ and the refugees are being asked to run into the water to catch them … rather than launching their own boats from the beach,” he said.

More than 40,000 people have crossed the channel to Britain in small boats this year, up from 28,526 in 2021. Unusually mild-November weather led to a hike in departures.

Britain and France this month signed a 72 million euro ($A112 million) agreement to ramp up joint efforts to prevent illegal migrants making perilous journeys across the channel. 

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