French authorities on Tuesday intercepted more than 40 migrants, including 11 children, trying to cross the English Channel to Britain, police said.
The migrant intercepts, combined with dozens of others in January, reveal a continued sharp increase in dangerous crossing attempts to the UK.
Thirty-five were taken into custody after their boat ended up on a beach in the Pas-de-Calais department of northern France.
“Among them were 18 adults of Iranian nationality, six of Iraqi nationality, and 11 children aged three to 14”, whose nationalities were not known, local police said.
There were no injuries among the group, who received medical care at a nearby harbour.
Another six migrants were spotted, their boat in trouble, off Cap Blanc-nez also near Pas-de-Calais, maritime police said.
They were approached by a patrol vessel but were “not co-operating” and had to be rescued against their will, police said.
Since the end of 2018, attempts by migrants from Africa, the Middle East and South Asia to make the dangerous crossing on the icy and choppy waters of the English Channel have multiplied, official data showed.
Rights groups have linked the sharp increase in crossings to a police crackdown aimed at preventing the establishment of migrant camps near Calais, home to a busy ferry port and the Eurotunnel, and other areas along the French coast.
In the first three weeks of this year alone, at least 53 migrants have been stopped by French authorities while attempting the perilous journey across the Channel, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, often in rickety vessels.
Last year, 2,758 migrants were intercepted, four times the number detained in 2018, the maritime police said. Four are known to have died trying to cross the Channel.
France’s Interior Ministry on Tuesday reported a 7.3 per cent rise in the number of asylum requests filed last year – 132,614 – while deportations of illegal migrants increased 19 per cent to 23,746.
Most asylum seekers came from Afghanistan, Guinea, Georgia and Albania, the ministry said.