Dozens of migrants intercepted in English Channel

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French authorities said Monday that 19 migrants were intercepted overnight trying to cross the English Channel to Britain, after 31 were rescued and brought back to France early Sunday.

The operations cap a year of growing attempts to brave the frigid and choppy waters off France’s northern coast by migrants from Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

Rights groups have linked the crossings to a police crackdown to prevent the establishment of migrant camps in Calais and other areas along the French coast.

Naval authorities said the 19 rescued on a small boat Sunday night included a woman and two children, and some of the migrants were suffering from hypothermia when they were returned to France shortly after midnight.

In two pre-dawn operations earlier Sunday, a vessel carrying 11 people was discovered and another with 20 aboard was spotted.

Last Thursday, French and British officials said a total of 71 migrants were intercepted on several boats in the English Channel, with some needing hospitalization for hyperthermia.

At least four migrants have died so far this year attempting to make the dangerous crossing in the Channel, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, with strong currents and icy waters.

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