UK intercepts 21 migrants in Channel

British rescuers, front help some 20 migrants on a semi-rigid boat trying make their way from France across the English Channel in this Feb. 18, 2019 file photo. — AFP

LONDON — British authorities on Wednesday intercepted two small boats in the English Channel carrying 21 migrants, one of whom required hospital treatment, the latest in a spate of attempted crossings.

The operation follows the interception on Tuesday of 86 migrants arriving on such vessels from France -- thought to be one of the largest number of apprehensions in a single day.

On Wednesday Britain's Border Force was alerted to the first boat at 1:30 a.m. (0030 GMT), finding eight males on board presenting themselves as Iranian nationals, the interior ministry said in a statement.

The second vessel was reported at 7:40 a.m., and 13 migrants — 12 men and one woman — were discovered on board.

One of the men was unwell and was helicoptered to hospital.

"Crossing the Channel in a small boat is a huge risk," said the ministry.

"The criminal gangs who perpetuate this are ruthless and do not care about loss of life."

Such Channel crossings have intensified this summer as migrants take advantage of mild weather to try to reach Britain via the world's busiest shipping lane.

Since January, 1,450 migrants have been rescued either by British or French coastguards — more than double the number who tried to cross in 2018 — according to official French figures released last month.

Britain's Interior minister Priti Patel met her French counterpart in Paris last month, when they agreed "to deploy more resources along the French coast to intercept and stop crossings," her department said.

"We are working closely at all levels with the French authorities to tackle this dangerous and illegal activity," an interior ministry spokeswoman said. prior to Wednesday.

The 86 migrants intercepted on Tuesday — including women and children — hailed from eight countries and were detained in five separate incidents, according to the interior ministry.

Some made it ashore before being apprehended while others were still at sea when they were detained.

They included nationals from Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, the Philippines, Turkey and Vietnam.

Those apprehended were taken to the port town of Dover, where they were medically assessed and transferred to immigration officials for interview. — AFP