Dutch fishermen pick up 19 refugees from a boat off the coast of France

Photo: Les Sauveters en mer Dunkerque via Facebook
Photo: SNSM Dunkerque

A group of fishermen from the Dutch fishing village of Urk have rescued 19 asylum seekers from a boat in the English Channel, including a toddler and a baby, according to a French coastguard report.

The group – 16 men, one woman and two children – were some seven kilometres from Dunkirk when they were picked up by the Urk boat, which sails under a Belgian flag. The French coastguard had received a report that a boat was in trouble and as the Hennie was closest, it was asked to check out the situation.

The five-strong Dutch crew found the refugees, all thought to come from Iraq, in a small boat, with 30 centimetres of water in the bottom.

‘It was the middle of the night and you could see nothing,’ skipper Tiemen Klaas Wezelman told radio show Nieuws en Co. The boat had drifted away from its original location due to the strong current but was spotted thanks to the light on a mobile phone.

The fishermen brought the group of refugees on board, gave them food and coffee and dry clothes. The French coastguard arrived to take them back to France after around 20 minutes. They were all said to be suffering from mild hypothermia and have been handed over to French border police.

‘Seeing the mother and baby like that shakes you to the core,’ Wezelman said. ‘You hear about these things happening but you never see it for yourself… these people still had 40 miles to go to reach England. They had no idea what they had let themselves in for.’

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