The number of unaccompanied young migrants crossing the English Channel from France to Britain has spiked during the coronavirus outbreak, as travel restrictions force them onto boats rather than trucks.
Kent County Council in southeast England, which includes the major port of Dover, was dealing with “230 to 250” young migrants a year ago, its chief executive, Roger Gough, said.
“But that number has pretty much doubled. It’s now nearly 470 and new arrivals are coming in all the time,” he told AFP.
Channel crossing attempts have increased since the end of 2018, despite the danger of heavy maritime traffic, strong currents and low water temperatures.
In 2019, 2,758 migrants were rescued by the French and British authorities while trying to cross the strait – four times more than in 2018, according to French officials.
The coronavirus pandemic has reinforced the trend, with the reduced number of trucks going through the Channel Tunnel leading migrants to make the crossing in small boats instead.
“We used to see these young people crossing in trucks. This was the typical route,” Mr Gough said.
“Now what we’re seeing is these unaccompanied young people are in the boats.”
Francois Guennoc, vice-president of the Auberge des Migrants aid group in Calais, said the vast majority of foreign nationals seeking refuge in the region were male, aged 16 to 30.