PARIS - More than 1,000 migrants have attempted the perilous sea crossing to Britain from France in rubber dinghies in the past three days, UK government data shows, as human traffickers take advantage of benign weather conditions.
On a still night earlier this week, the French tug boat Abeille Normandie shadowed one inflatable dinghy carrying as many as 50 people, none of them wearing life jackets, as it motored towards British waters.
The role of the tug, chartered by the French maritime police, was to ascertain "the state it's in, the number of souls on board and whether they are wearing life jackets or not. Then we'll follow it in order to be ready to intervene if a problem arises," said the vessel's skipper, who identified himself as Captain Mickael in accordance with protocols.
After entering British waters, the dinghy, sat low in the water, was met by a British search and rescue vessel, onto which the migrants boarded, a Reuters photographer said.
Britain said in March it would pay France around 480 million pounds ($579 million) over three years to try to stop migrants making the illegal crossings after total arrivals stood at over 45,000 in 2022.
But the traffickers are constantly changing strategy, said Veronique Magnin, spokesperson for France's Channel and North Sea Maritime Police authority.
"They are very well organised," she said.
UK government figures show that the number of migrants detected crossing to Britain from France by sea so far this year stands at a provisional 25,330.
($1 = 0.8290 pounds)
(Reporting by Pascal Rossignol; Editing by Richard Lough and Mark Potter)