French rescuers allowed a migrant boat with engine problems to continue to the UK after the asylum seekers managed to restart the motor because it was ‘too risky’ to intervene, authorities say.
The French rescue centre CROSS in Cap Gris-Nez became aware of a small boat in difficulty off the coast of Calais around midday on Sunday and 21 migrants were picked up from the dinghy.
But according to France‘s Maritime Prefect, during the operation some asylum seekers managed to restart the engine of the boat and ‘refused to be rescued’.
French authorities allowed them to continue their journey, as it was deemed too risky to intervene. They continued to monitor the boat as it crossed the Channel.
More than 27,000 migrants have crossed the Channel by small boat so far this year, according to official government figures.
A graph showing a comparison between the estimated number of migrants arriving into the UK
Stock image: Migrants are brought into Dover Harbour after being rescued in the English Channel by the Border Force. Pictured: October 09, 2023
Stock image: A group of people thought to be migrants crossing the Channel in a small boat traveling from the coast of France and heading in the direction of Dover. Pictured: August 29, 2023
A total of 27,314 people reached have the UK in 558 inflatable dinghies so far in 2023 – an average of 49 people crammed into each vessel.
Remembrance Sunday saw 615 people cross the 21-mile Dover Strait in 12 boats – the first to arrive in Britain this month after poor weather put a temporary halt to Channel crossings.
Yesterday, the state rescue ship Apollo Moon picked up 21 migrants from the dinghy which ran into engine problems during the crossing.
But French authorities deemed it too risky to intervene and allowed the remainder to continue to the UK.
A spokesperson for the Maritime Prefect said: ‘Given the risks incurred by migrants in the event of restrictive actions to force them to board State rescue resources (falling overboard, thermal shock, various trauma) it was decided to let them continue their journey.’
Several other groups of migrants were intercepted by French authorities on the weekend after their boats got into difficulty in the Channel.
On Saturday night, rescue ship Esvagt Charlie picked up 21 people from a dinghy off the coast of Dunkirk and dropped them off at the port.
Around the same time, the Apollo Moon rescued 60 migrants – including one who had fainted from hypothermia – off the coast of Calais.
Stock image: More than 27,000 migrants have crossed the Channel by small boat so far this year, according to official government figures. Pictured: August 29, 2023
Stock image: A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, from a Border Force vessel following a small boat incident in the Channel. Pictured: October 9, 2023
Stock image: A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dungeness, Kent, onboard an RNLI Dungeness Lifeboat, following a small boat incident in the Channel. Pictured: August 16, 2023
They were dropped off at the port of Calais, where they were taken care of by the departmental fire and rescue service and the border police.
Later on Sunday morning, the CROSS was informed that a further two migrants were adrift on board a ‘dinghy type boat’ off the coast of Calais. The assistance and rescue tug Abeille Normandie picked up the two asylum seekers and dropped them off at the port.
In the middle of the morning, the Apollo Moon rescued a further 15 people off the coast of Calais, and around midday, customs patrol boat Jacques Oudart Fourmentin picked up 15 migrants from another boat in difficulty and dropped them off at the port of Calais.
Hundreds more migrants are understood to have reached the UK by small boat on Remembrance Sunday – despite choppy conditions in the Channel.
While the government is yet to confirm the official figures for Sunday, at least 350 asylum seekers are thought to have been brought into Dover, Kent by Border Force.
The latest arrivals are the first to reach Britain this month.
The last migrants to cross the Channel arrived on October 31, when 94 people were intercepted by UK officials in two boats.
A total of 1,869 people made the perilous journey across the 21-mile Dover Strait in 40 boats last month – an average of 47 migrants crammed into each inflatable dinghy.
The total number of asylum seekers to reach the UK so far this year stands at 26,699 in 546 boats.
Last year saw a record 45,755 migrants cross the Channel – 60 per cent higher than 2021’s total of 28,526.