A boat carrying 16 migrants was intercepted off the northern French port town of Boulogne-sur-Mer on Sunday as it made its way towards Britain, French media reported.
The local coastguard was deployed after a stolen fishing vessel named Sainte-Catherine aroused suspicion close to the entrance of the port before dawn, Franceinfo radio said.
In a statement, the maritime agency for the English Channel and the North Sea said the vessel had been "sailing with all lights off, was not answering radio calls and making an unusual trajectory."
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Boat boarded by authorities
The boat, containing 14 adults and two children, was found a few minutes later 11 kilometers (7 miles) off the French coast. Authorities boarded the vessel and steered it back to the port.
After a few hours, the passengers were handed to the local border police.
Focus on Calais
Northern France, and in particular the port of Calais, has been a longtime stopping point for thousands of migrants seeking to reach Britain.
As many as 8,000 migrants from North Africa and the Middle East lived in the makeshift Calais jungle encampment until it was cleared in October 2016.
Although most of the migrants were moved to formal French reception centers, hundreds of people remain in the area, living smaller ad-hoc camps along the northern French coast.
Increase in boat trips
Migrants also arrive in Europe through other means. Britain, for instance, has noted an increase in Iranians trying to enter the country illegally after Serbia offered visa-free travel to Iranian nationals. Some of them made onward journeys through Europe to northern France and then by boat to the UK.
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Although most migrants attempt to make the journey by ferry or Eurotunnel hidden in trucks, there have been a growing number of migrant crossings over the English Channel over the last few months.
Some of them make the journey in dinghies, despite strong currents, cold waters, and the Channel being the world's busiest shipping lane.
UK government figures show that more than 135 migrants have successfully crossed from France in small boats since November 2.
On December 12, eleven people were picked up in a dinghy off the English port town of Dover.
A few days later, 10 men were rescued from a boat off the French coast; many of them suffering from “severe hypothermia.”
French and British authorities have stepped up patrols along their respective coastlines.
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