Dozens of migrants rescued from English Channel over Christmas

Five separate boating incidents involving 40 migrants reported on Christmas Day

Migrants wait for a food distribution near the former "jungle" in Calais, France, August 23, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
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Some 40 migrants, including two children, were rescued in the icy waters between southern England and northern France known as the Channel on Christmas Day authorities said. Another three adults were plucked from their 3.5 metre dinghy in the early hours of Boxing Day roughly 10 miles off the French coastline.

The French regional maritime authority said eight people aboard a small rubber boat were spotted in distress by two commercial vessels on Tuesday morning, about 12 miles from the port city of Calais. A police helicopter was called in to direct the rescue of the group whose nationalities are not known.

The UK’s Home Office said its border services had to respond to five separate incidents beginning early on Christmas Day.

All of the 40 rescued on Christmas Day, who have now been transferred to the UK and are receiving medical attention, said they were from Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan.

The incident comes amid a surge in attempted migrant crossings via the Channel Sea, the busiest shipping lane in the world and barely 20 miles wide at its narrowest.

The Home office said it was the result of criminal gangs exploiting vulnerable people.


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The ever increasing rise in attempts are sometimes blamed by human rights agencies on the French governments aggressive approach to makeshift migrants camps. Two years ago one of these informal centres near Calais, that at one point held 10,000 people, was closed. Some migrants have died after taking extreme risks to hide in lorries, take the ferry across the sea or smuggle themselves onto UK-bound trains.