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66 migrants rescued in English Channel since French lockdown

PARIS (AP) — Despite France's coronavirus lockdown, at least 66 migrants have been rescued trying to cross the English Channel to Britain in small boats since the measures were imposed three weeks ago, French officials said Wednesday.

Nine migrants were rescued Tuesday off Calais while 15 others were rescued last week after a fishing boat spotted them in distress off Boulogne-Sur-Mer, to the west, according to the Maritime Prefecture on the northern French coast. Others have been rescued around Dunkirk and as far west as Touquet since March 17, when French authorities ordered confinement measures.

Aid workers last week began visiting scattered camps near Calais to coax migrants to move to temporary housing, the Pas de Calais prefecture has said. Last year, more than 2,700 people were rescued at sea or stopped while trying to cross the rough waterway that's fraught with risks. Four migrants died last year off France in the effort. It was not known how many crossed successfully.

Migrants have long used northern France as a launching point to reach Britain, either in trucks through the Channel tunnel or on ferries. However, some began trying to cross over in 2016, using motorized rafts or small boats provided by smugglers.

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