Three boats carrying 36 migrants found off Kent coast

UK coastguard helps with early-morning rescues in English Channel

A Border Force vessel arriving at Dover Marina
A Border Force vessel arriving at Dover Marina

A group of 36 people, travelling in three separate boats, have been detained by the UK’s Border Force after being found in the English Channel.

The suspected refugees were intercepted by border officials while attempting to reach the UK.

The UK coastguard assisted border officials to help bring the migrants to shore.

Officials first spotted a small boat in the channel in the early hours of Easter Monday.

A Border Force cutter was scrambled to intercept it.

Eleven men were found on board, who said they were from Iran and Iraq.

Staff from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) found a second boat with 15 people on board.

The second group, made up of Iraqi men, women and children was brought to shore at Dungeness, in Kent.

The RNLI later handed the group over to immigration officials.

A third boat, filled with nine men and one woman from Iran, was intercepted by Border Force officials and brought to Dover.

“Anyone crossing the Channel in a small boat is taking a huge risk with their life and the lives of their children,” a Home Office spokesperson said.

“Since the home secretary declared a major incident in December, two cutters have returned to UK waters from overseas operations, we have agreed a joint action plan with France and increased activity out of the Joint Coordination and Information Centre in Calais.

“It is an established principle that those in need of protection should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach and since January more than 20 people who arrived illegally in the UK in small boats have been returned to Europe.”

“We assisted Border Force with three incidents off the Kent coast this morning,” a coastguard spokesperson said.

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“HM Coastguard is committed to safeguarding life around the seas and coastal areas of this country.

“We are only concerned with preservation of life, rescuing those in trouble and bringing them safely back to shore, where they will be handed over to the relevant partner emergency services or authorities.”

In December, Sajid Javid, the home secretary, declared a “major incident” following an increase in attempts to cross the English Channel in small boats.

More than 500 refugees tried to travel to the UK on small vessels in 2018, with four in five of them attempting the journey in the last three months of the year.

Additional reporting by agencies

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