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French and UK authorities intercept record number of migrants in the English Channel

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Migrants aboard a rubber boat after being intercepted by French authorities, off the port of Calais, northern France, in December 2018.
Migrants aboard a rubber boat after being intercepted by French authorities, off the port of Calais, northern France, in December 2018.   -   Copyright  Marine Nationale via AP
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French and British authorities have intercepted a record number of migrants attempting to cross the Channel over the past two days.

Figures from Britain's Home Office showed that 202 migrants were intercepted by UK Border Forces on Thursday in 19 separate incidents while French authorities rescued 25 migrants during two operations.

Further incidents were reported on Friday.

France's maritime prefecture said that it rescued an additional 58 migrants in the morning. A Home Office source told Euronews that UK authorities had also dealt with a number of incidents on Friday but figures have yet to be released.

This beats the previous record established earlier this year when 220 migrants were rescued over a 48 hour period.

Chris Philp, the British Minister for Immigration Compliance and the Courts, described the number of migrants intercepted in the Channel on Thursday as "unacceptably high".

"France have stopped thousands of migrants this year and they stopped more today, but more needs to be done," he said in a statement.

"The French have to take tougher action. We need stronger enforcement measures, including interceptions at sea and direct return of boats," he added.

Among those rescued were six children and two disabled people.

The migrants were primarily citizens of Yemen, Iran, Sudan, Iraq, Eritrea, Kuwait, Egypt, Chad, and Mali.

The Home Office said that after a medical check-up all the migrants were transferred to immigration officials and will be interviewed. It emphasised that "the migrants have left a safe country — generally France — and where appropriate we will be seeking to return them".

The good weather over the past couple of days is likely to be one of the factors behind the sharp rise in attempted crossings.

The French maritime prefecture warned other migrants from following suit, stressing that the Channel is "one of the busiest areas in the world and where the weather conditions are often difficult (with an annual average of 120 days of wind greater than or equal to force 7 for instance), and therefore dangerous for human life."

More than 2,750 migrants attempted to cross the Channel by boat in 2019, according to figures from French authorities.

Britain said that so far this year, 22 people smugglers have been jailed and that a further 11 arrests were made earlier this week.