French authorities said eight migrants were picked up from a stalled boat Tuesday while trying to cross the English Channel to Britain, where the government office that oversees immigration reported that almost 30 more were rescued in the waters between southern England and northern France.
The French regional maritime authority, or prefecture, said in a statement that the small rubber boat with a failed engine was spotted Tuesday off the coast of Calais. A police helicopter monitoring the area directed a tugboat to the stranded migrants, the prefecture said.
The maritime authority didn't provide the passengers' nationalities.
Calais, a port city on one end of a Channel tunnel that connects France and English by train, long has been a magnet for migrants fleeing conflict or poverty in Africa and the Mideast. French officials two years ago closed a makeshift camp that swelled to a population of 10,000 at one point as people waited to try to hop trucks taking rail ferries to England.
5 incidents on Christmas
The Channel has seen a recent spike in migrants attempting the trip from France to England in small boats. Britain's Home Office said border agents responded to five separate boating incidents in English waters starting early Christmas Day involving passengers who said they were from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.
The Home Office put the number of England-bound migrants the French tugboat took on at nine, not eight. The French maritime authority could not be reached to resolve the discrepancy.
The office told Britain's Press Association that all received medical evaluations and were sent on for immigration interviews. Social welfare agencies would assume care of the two children among the passengers, the news agency reported.