Six Iranian migrants are caught by French coastguard after British pleasure cruiser spots them trying to get to UK in 13ft rubber dinghy
- The group were intercepted fourteen miles west of Boulogne-sur-mer
- British helicopter and lifeboat were both sent out to aid rescue effort
- Comes after two British men pleaded guilty to assist unlawful immigration
- Fears that Brexit vote will affect border checks for migrants at Calais
France’s coastguard have intercepted six Iranian migrants who were trying to make their way across the Channel to Britain on a rubber dinghy, maritime authorities said today.
The vessel was first spotted by a British pleasure boat fourteen miles off the French coastal town of Boulogne-sur-mer, ‘making its way towards the English coast,’ the French maritime authority said in a statement.
The French coastguard rushed to the scene yesterday while a British helicopter buzzed ahead to spot the boat.
The six Iranian occupants of the four-metre (13-foot) dinghy were handed over to border police, said the statement.
It comes after two British men yesterday admitted people smuggling after they were caught in a sinking dinghy with 18 illegal immigrants off the Kent coast.
Mark Stribling, 35, from Farningham, and Robert Stilwell, 33, a former Judo champion from Dartford, pleaded guilty to conspiring to assist unlawful immigration.
The pair were arrested last month after they were caught attempting to smuggle 18 Albanians – including one woman and two children – into the country near the small coastal town of Dymchurch, near Folkestone.
‘These crossings are illegal and, moreover, extremely dangerous,’ due to high traffic, strong currents and winds, it added.
French authorities have reported about a dozen rescue operations to rescue migrants drifting in inflatable dinghies in the Channel since the start of the year. In 2015, there were none.
The most recent rescue took place on June 11, when three Iranian migrants were saved from their sinking vessel. Four days earlier, three other migrants were rescued in similar circumstances.
Hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees have crossed from Turkey to Greece in overloaded boats, while thousands of others have made the perilous journey from Libya to Italy.
More than 2,800 people have drowned in the Mediterranean this year alone as they made their desperate bid to reach Europe’s shores.
While France’s migrant crisis is tiny compared to that faced by Greece or Germany, the slum-like Calais camp of about 4,000 migrants who want to reach Britain is a political hot potato on both sides of the Channel.
Many of the migrants have relatives in Britain, or believe they will have a better chance of finding employment there.
Under a 2003 agreement, British border checks were moved onto the French side of the Channel to stop people arriving in London without adequate documentation.
The June 23 Brexit vote to leave the EU has left a question mark hanging over the agreement, and what it will mean for the Calais migrant crisis.
French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron said Monday that the vote ‘re-opened these subjects and we have the right to be more demanding of our British partner.’