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Coastguards rescue 40 migrants from boats in English Channel on Christmas Day

Home Office suspects ‘criminal gang’ organised the crossings from France

Adam Forrest
Tuesday 25 December 2018 17:45 GMT
One migrant dinghy was intercepted by French authorities in the English Channel
One migrant dinghy was intercepted by French authorities in the English Channel (AP)

Coastguards were called out on Christmas Day to rescue 40 migrants, including two children, attempting to cross the English Channel in small boats.

Border force officials were involved in five separate instances involving people presenting as Iraqi, Iranian and Afghan, according to the Home Office.

A girl was among eight people brought to Folkestone, Kent, at around 2.40am. A child was also one of 13 people found on board a dinghy off the coast of Deal, Kent, shortly before 7am.

Separately, a border force cutter was deployed at 5.50am to the English Channel to help a dinghy with seven men and a woman on board. Border force officials also assisted coastguards in rescuing two people in a small boat shortly before 9.20am.

All of those involved underwent a medical assessment and the adults have been transferred to immigration officials to be interviewed. The children will come under the care of social services, officials said.

French authorities also reported the rescue of another nine migrants spotted on an inflatable dinghy in the Channel.

The motor on the inflatable had broken down and it had found been drifting. The group was transferred to British coastguards to be assessed.

All 40 people found on 25 December are now in the UK. A Home Office spokesperson said a criminal gang is suspected of arranging the crossings.

The spokesperson said: “The border force has intercepted a number of boats containing migrants attempting to cross the Channel overnight and this morning, and has deployed resources to deal with these incidents.

“The evidence shows there is organised criminal gang activity behind illegal migration attempts by small boats across the Channel.

“We are working closely with the French and law enforcement partners to target these gangs, who exploit vulnerable people and put lives at risk.”

The incidents follow a spate of migrant rescues in the same Dover Strait shipping lane since the beginning of November. Dozens of people claiming to be from Iran have reached UK shores in the past two months.

Many of the Iranians have been found using inflatable dinghies to cross from France using the Dover to Calais route – the busiest shipping lane in the world.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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