French police say they have caught 14 migrants trying to steal a fishing trawler in the port of Boulogne in the latest foiled attempt to cross to the UK.
The suspects include a mother and her two children who say they came from Iraq, according to local prosecutor Pascal Marconville.
Police continue to look for two individuals who they believe were the people smugglers involved in the incident, Marconville told the AFP news agency.
“Those seeking to help them on their way were busy breaking into the trawler” to let them aboard when harbour authorities called police, he said.
It comes after two Border Force vessels were redeployed from overseas to patrol the English Channel in response to the wave of migrants entering the UK by boat. Home Secretary Sajid Javid has called the crossings a “major incident”.
Last year, 539 migrants attempted to travel to the UK on small boats, according to the Home Office, the majority in the last three months of the year.
Some 227 incidents were intercepted by the French before they made it to the UK.
In November, a fishing vessel called ‘L’Epervier’ stolen from the Boulogne harbour was intercepted with migrants aboard off the southern English coast.
A second stolen vessel was stopped with 16 migrants aboard in December just after making it out to sea from the port.