Migrants picked up by French authorities north of Calais

By Michael Drummond, South East Correspondent, and Flora Thompson, Home Affairs Correspondent, PA

Eleven migrants have been picked up by French authorities in the English Channel.

A boat was detected about 4.5 miles north of Calais at about 1.45am on Thursday morning.

The news comes as police smashed a people-smuggling gang suspected of trafficking 10,000 migrants in refrigerated lorries to the UK, according to Europol.

In the latest crossing attempt, French authorities confirmed a patrol boat was dispatched to the migrant boat, which had been suffering engine failure.

Air temperatures in the region were thought to be as low as 5C.

Ten of the individuals on board had mild hypothermia, while the other was reported to be in a worse condition.

They were taken aboard the Aramis at 2.47am and brought to the port of Calais.

All are now safe following the rescue, and French authorities reiterated their warnings about crossing the dangerous shipping lanes.

It comes after 50 migrants were intercepted by UK and French authorities on Wednesday as they attempted to cross the channel.

Meanwhile, French and Dutch police snared 23 suspects believed to be part of a network which is thought to have made the equivalent of around £60 million, charging migrants up to £6,000 each for the crossing.

The Iranian, Iraqi-Kurdish and Syrian migrants from Le Mans and Poitiers in France were taken to the UK in “life-threatening conditions” hidden in often overcrowded refrigerated lorries, up to 20 at a time.

In October, 39 Vietnamese nationals were found dead in the back of a refrigerated lorry in Essex after being smuggled through the port of Purfleet from Zeebrugge in Belgium.

Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, said: “Ever more security on both sides of the Channel won’t stop people seeking asylum in the UK.

“The sooner the Home Office accepts this obvious fact, the fewer people will be driven into the hands of people-smugglers intent on exploiting this terrible situation.

“Leaving the EU will make the UK less able to pass the buck, but it would be to the Government’s credit to take responsibility for safe passage sooner.”