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Three migrants saved from inflatable boat in sea near Ostend

17:01 25/09/2020

Three young migrants from Sudan trying to reach the UK on an inflatable boat in the North Sea have been rescued, West Flanders Prosecution Office (Bruges section) announced on 23 September.

The makeshift vessel, spotted 25km from Ostend, was recovered by a search party made up of Belgian Navy and maritime police boats. The Sudanese migrants were using paddles as the canoe did not have a motor. Transported to Knokke hospital, they were discharged the same day.

On 24 September, aided by an interpreter, the youths’ story was recounted to police. According to the first information received, they had left northern France with around 12 other migrants. However, nine of them jumped into the water and swam back to French soil soon after the boat set sail. The remaining Sudanese transmigrants then spent three days at sea.

Two adults have been asked to leave Belgium. The third, a minor (under 18), has expressed the wish not to be given asylum in Belgium.

The police will carry out a more thorough investigation to detect if any smuggling or human trafficking was involved in the affair.

Today, an increasing number of migrants try to cross the English Channel to the UK on inflatable canoes. But the East Flanders commune has also recorded cases of human trafficking. Notably, on 2 May, an inflatable vessel, life jackets, outboard motor and petrol cans were found in a vehicle at Koksijde. The car’s occupants, following their arrest and subsequent trial, were handed eight or nine years’ prison sentences by Bruges criminal court.