Dozens of people saved from sea after migrant boats get into trouble off France

Wrapped in gold foil blankets, a long line of refugees rescued from small boats returned to the shore.

As the UK prepared to release its latest immigration figures, dozens of people were being saved by French officials from the sea.

They'd paid smugglers to bring them to England when their vessel began to sink.

James, 17, had travelled from South Sudan.

He said they couldn't bail the water out fast enough.

"We tried to go but we couldn't reach [British waters]," he explained. "The boat was full of water, we couldn't go."

Stranded with a broken engine, the French Navy came to their aid.

Police officers had spotted them and another boat in distress from the shore and raised the alarm.

Dozens of people had been packed on to the overloaded and unsafe vessels.

Many didn't have life jackets and couldn't swim. It's an all too familiar scene.

Since 2018, more than 100,000 people have arrived illegally in the UK on small boats.

Figures today show that 44,460 people came in the year to June 2023 - a rise of 26%.

And the calm seas and low winds of today provided the perfect window for traffickers pushing the perilous journeys.

Police are a regular sight on the beaches of northern France near Calais.

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Their numbers have been boosted by cash from the UK.

But the extra patrols and threats of being sent to Rwanda or deported without asylum didn't deter James.

"I will try it again. I want to go there," he said.

As more small boats arrived on British shores today, the Home Office said crossings between January and June 2023 are down.

But for many refugees in the camps of northern France, it's a waiting game; just a matter of time before they risk it all at sea again.