File picture.

Lille - Three British smugglers trying to reach Britain on a small boat with 12 Vietnamese migrants were taken in for questioning on off the French coastal town of Boulogne, local maritime authorities said in a statement on Friday.

The three were detained on Thursday in an operation that saw the "dismantling of a network of smugglers and prevented the crossing to England of 12 Vietnamese migrants and three British smugglers", a statement said.

One of the smugglers was arrested separately after trying to escape by jumping into the water. A migrant who was in difficulty in the water was also picked up.

According to the maritime prefecture in Boulogne, 23 channel crossing attempts were made in 2016, 13 in 2017 and 7 in 2018.

* Receive IOL's top stories via Whatsapp by sending your name to 0745573535.