Twelve migrants today became the first ever to reach Britain in a fishing boat stolen in France.
The extraordinary crossing took place last night and in the early hours of today following the theft of the vessel in the port town of Boulogne-sur-Mer.
‘It’s an unprecedented method,’ said Ingrid Parrot, a representative of France’s maritime authorities, based on the Channel coast.
Thousands of migrants from all over the world try to get to the UK from the north of France every year, but usually as stowaways on ferries or Channel Tunnel trains.
There have been incidents of people smugglers using boats, and of the migrants themselves making rafts or buying sail or motor boats, but this is the first time that a fishing boat has been stolen by migrants.
Ms Parrot said French police were investigating the theft, which is thought to have taken place on Monday night.
None of the migrants have yet been identified, and there countries of origin are not known either.
Coastguards in France picked up the boat taking a ‘bizarre’ route between 9.30pm and midnight on Monday, Ms Parrot told the AFP news agency.
The French authorities identified the craft as a 40-feet long boat and immediately contacted her owner, who confirmed the boat had been stolen.
She was intercepted by Britain’s Border Force after landing on the English coast at around 1am on Tuesday.
The French intercepted some 12 attempts by migrants to cross the Channel last year, and 23 in 2016.
There have been 23 operations launched this year to rescue migrants, or to stop those about to set sail.
Those who get across usually claim asylum, with their requests being processed by the French authorities.
Despite regular attempts to keep the numbers down, there are still thousands of UK-bound migrants massing in France.
Last month, 1800 mainly Iraqi Kurds were cleared out of an illegal makeshift camp on the outskirts of Dunkirk.
Many others come from such countries as Afghanistan and Syria. While some are refugees escaping war and other disasters, it is common to find economic migrants among the groups of migrants.
People smugglers can charge up to £10000 for a trip across the Channel in a high-speed boat, or even a plane.
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