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The Latest: France ups measures to stop migrant crossings

BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on the influx of migrants into Europe (all times local):

6:40 p.m.

France is launching an action plan to prevent migrants from crossing the English Channel from France to England.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement the plan is to further secure the ports of Calais and Boulogne in northern France, as well as beaches and other areas potentially used to launch boats.

Measures include security forces on the ground and military and police ships and aircraft patrolling in the area 24 hours a day.

Interior Minister Christopher Castaner said the plan aims at “ending migrant Channel crossings that are not only illegal but also extremely dangerous.”

French authorities counted 40 illegal Channel crossings and 31 failed attempts in 2018, mostly in November and December. In total, 276 migrants managed to reach the British coast, while 228 were stopped by police forces, the Interior Ministry said.

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4:30 p.m.

A migrant has been rescued after he jumped off a German aid group’s vessel and tried to swim to Malta.

The Sea-Watch 3, with 32 migrants aboard since their rescue on Dec. 22, was off the coast of Malta Friday when the Libyan man plunged into the frigid, rough sea. The German aid boat’s crew quickly rescued him.

Malta won’t let the migrants disembark but allowed the vessel to shelter near its coast during bad weather and receive supplies.

Italy also won’t allow disembarkation by migrants saved by private groups. Sea-Watch’s crew hopes some EU nations will agree to take the migrants.

Another private aid vessel, with 17 rescued migrants aboard, also was sheltering off Malta.

Libyan-based human traffickers launch unseaworthy boats, crowded with migrants hoping to reach European shores.

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2:40 p.m.

The European Union’s border agency says the number of unauthorized border crossings into Europe has hit a five-year low, but that migrant entries into Spain via the Mediterranean continue to climb.

Frontex said Friday that migrants tried to cross the EU’s external borders without authorization around 150,000 times last year, a 25-percent drop compared to 2017.

It says the drop is due to a massive decrease in the number of people entering Italy, mostly after setting out from Libya and Algeria. Just over 23,000 unauthorized crossings were noted on that route in 2018.

Frontex says about 57,000 crossings were detected in Spain, double the figure for 2017.

EU nations have been bickering over how to manage migrant arrivals since well over 1 million people entered in 2015.

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