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Britain arrests cross-Channel people smuggler suspects

4 January 2019

Britain has arrested two people suspected of people smuggling, following a rise in the number of people attempting the perilous crossing of the English Channel.

Although the numbers attempting the journey are tiny in comparison with those travelling across the Mediterranean to reach Europe, there are concerns that the growth in traffic could result in tragedy as the refugees attempt to cross the busiest sea lane in the world in dinghies and small boats. 

While more than 500 people attempted to cross the Channel by small boat in 2018, more than half of these arrived since the beginning of November. The French authorities are also intercepting people before they set out on the crossing. In one incident, they rescued 11 people from a small boat, of whom five were suffering from hypothermia, and in a separate incident they rescued 10 people, suffering from hypothermia as well as poisoning from engine fumes.

English lifeboats rescued 40 people in five separate incidents on Christmas Day and three on 26 December, and the UK authorities picked up at least 26 people from four small boats on the Kent coast in the following days. 

The people rescued off the Kent coast and those found on the beaches are taken into immigration detention to process their cases. Most are from Iran and seeking asylum. The UK government has stepped up its border patrols, in cooperation with the French authorities, amid suggestions that naval patrols might be introduced to intercept the traffic.


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