Number of migrants intercepted in Channel is highest in one day

Tuesday 10th September 2019 23:15 BST

The Tuesday total, which was spread over five incidents, is understood to be the largest number of migrants intercepted in a single day.

The Home Office has issued a warning to migrants not to risk crossing the Channel because of the very obvious dangers.

Early on Tuesday morning, the Border Force was alerted to two small boats travelling across the Channel towards the UK coast.

The Border Force cutter Seeker was deployed and intercepted the vessels.

Twenty-three men, women and children were transferred on to the cutter and taken to a makeshift processing station at the Port of Dover for medical and other checks.

One of the small boats was carrying 11 people, the other had 12 on board.

A Home Office Spokesman said the migrants were found to be in good health and have been transferred to an immigration detention centre while further checks are carried out.

The migrants told officials they were from Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Philippines.

Around midday, authorities responded to a rigid inflatable boat near Dungeness in Kent.

Eighteen people were on board - 14 claimed to be Iranian nationals, three Iraqi and one Vietnamese.

Also around midday, the Border Force was alerted to another RHIB (rigid-hulled inflatable boat) in the English Channel and the cutter HMC Seeker was sent to intercept and bring the boat back to Dover.

Twenty-three Iranian and Ethiopian migrants were on board.

Authorities attended two other incidents, where migrants reached the shore.

Thirteen people were found on a beach at Littlestone in Kent and a further nine migrants were detained on a beach near Winchelsea.

The latest incidents come less than two weeks after Home Secretary Priti Patel met her French counterpart in Paris to discuss the growing Channel crisis.

The home secretary said the meeting had been very constructive and both governments were working on more robust systems to try to stop migrants from making the treacherous channel crossing.

At least two migrants have died in recent weeks attempting to cross to the UK: an Iranian woman who fell overboard from a small dingy and was found by Dutch authorities on 18 August, and an Iraqi man who drowned while trying to swim from France to the UK.

He had apparently used a makeshift life jacket, made up of empty plastic bottles. His body was recovered near the Belgium port of Zebrugge.

A Home Office spokesman said: "Crossing the Channel in a small boat is a huge risk. The criminal gangs who perpetuate this are ruthless and do not care about loss of life.

"We are working closely at all levels with the French authorities to tackle this dangerous and illegal activity. In addition, Border Force cutters are patrolling the Channel and we have already deployed equipment including drones, CCTV and night vision goggles."

The numbers crossing the Channel have grown rapidly in recent months, with around 1,200 intercepted by UK authorities.

Security sources told Sky News that a sophisticated people trafficking network was at work along the north west coast of France.

National Crime Agency Officers are working with their French counterparts in a bid to identify the traffickers and disrupt their operations.

These latest reports of crossings came on Tuesday as Turkey said it could not cope with a rise in the number of migrants from Syria.

President Tayyip Erdogan called for more help to deal with an influx Syrian refugees after saying two weeks ago that he could open the gates for Syrians to massively migrate into Europe.

He announced plans to resettle one million refugees in northern Syria and said the route for migrants into Europe would reopen if Turkey does not receive enough international support for the plan.

More than 3.5 million Syrian refugees currently live in Turkey as a result of the conflict that has battered Syria since 2011.

Responding to Mr Erdogan's announcement, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis accused Turkey of trying to threaten Greece and the EU.

"Mr Erdogan must understand that he cannot threaten Greece and Europe in an attempt to secure more resources to handle the refugee (issue)," Mr Mitsotakis said.

He argued that the European Union has given €6bn (£5.3bn) in recent years to help Turkey deal with the migrant crisis.

At the peak of the crisis in 2015, thousands of migrants arrived on Greek shores every day.

The numbers had sharply decreased after Turkey and the EU signed a deal to cut off the flow in 2016, but more migrants have been arriving in Greece in recent months.

On one day in August, 13 boats carrying 546 people landed in Lesbos and 32 people were rescued at sea - marking the first mass arrival from Turkey in three years.

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