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Border Force join massive search and rescue mission off Sussex Coast amid surge in crossing attempts

A large-scale search and rescue operation is under way off the coast of East Sussex. 

Coastguard, lifeboats and rescue teams are being assisted by police and Border Force.

The nature of the incident is not known, though it comes amid a surge in attempts by migrants to cross the dangerous waters of the English Channel.

Tuesday marked the fifth consecutive day that migrants have been stopped while attempting to cross.

This increase of migration has been prompted by the improving weather and desire to escape migrant camps in France which have been infected by the coronavirus.

At least three migrants in camps across Calais and Dunkirk – where around 1,500 are living in squalor – have reportedly been diagnosed with coronavirus. 

To make matters worse, a number of the associations set up to help migrants in the camps in France have been shut down due to the coronavirus. 

There are fears that the poor, cramped conditions in the camps will cause the virus to spread quickly among their inhabitants.

Four migrants found near Hastings are pictured aboard a RNLI lifeboat after they were picked up off the coast of East Sussex having crossed the English Channel

The number of migrants making the journey across the perilous Channel waters have increased in recent days as the weather improves, and cases of the coronavirus are discovered in migrant camps in France. Pictured: authorities help migrants ashore near Hastings

The number of migrants making the journey across the perilous Channel waters have increased in recent days as the weather improves, and cases of the coronavirus are discovered in migrant camps in France. Pictured: authorities help migrants ashore near Hastings

Authorities helping migrants ashore could be seen not wearing PPE equipment to protect themselves from the coronavirus, despite reports of cases in the migrant camps in France

Authorities helping migrants ashore could be seen not wearing PPE equipment to protect themselves from the coronavirus, despite reports of cases in the migrant camps in France 

A helicopter is assisting with the operation off the warm south east shores, where temperatures today have been expected to surpass 20 degrees Celsius.

A spokesman for HM Coastguard said: ‘HM Coastguard is currently coordinating a search and rescue response to an incident off East Sussex, working with Border Force, Sussex Police and other partners.

‘We have sent RNLI lifeboats from Hastings and Rye Bay, coastguard rescue teams from Rye Bay, Bexhill, Langdon Battery and Hastings, Border Force vessel Hunter and the coastguard search and rescue helicopter from Lydd.

‘We are committed to safeguarding life around the seas and coastal areas of this country.

‘HM Coastguard is 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.’

Pictured: A migrant boat was found by authorities on the shores near Hastings. On Tuesday, more than 70 migrants tried to cross the English Channel, marking the fifth consecutive day migrants have been stopped attempting to cross

Pictured: A migrant boat was found by authorities on the shores near Hastings. On Tuesday, more than 70 migrants tried to cross the English Channel, marking the fifth consecutive day migrants have been stopped attempting to cross

HM Coastguard said it is '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'

HM Coastguard said it is ‘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’

On Tuesday, more than 70 migrants tried to cross the English Channel, despite lockdown measures remaining in place in the UK, the Home Office said, while a total of 65 asylum seekers were also stopped over the weekend.

Latest figures show there have been more than 55,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, while 7,095 people have died. 

A total of 63 individuals in four boats were intercepted and brought to the UK while another nine were taken to France. 

However, the MailOnline confirmed earlier today that none of the migrants stopped since the outbreak of coronavirus have been tested for the coronavirus.

Instead, the Home Office says it will observe asylum seekers for symptoms of the virus and isolate those were necessary, despite reports that some of those living in migrant camps in France have been infected with the deadly virus that has now killed over 7,000 people in the UK alone.

Migrants have today been stopped crossing the Channel to Britain for a fifth consecutive day. Pictured: Border Force officers bring migrants into the Ports of Dover on Wednesday

Migrants have today been stopped crossing the Channel to Britain for a fifth consecutive day. Pictured: Border Force officers bring migrants into the Ports of Dover on Wednesday

Border Force officers stopped 70 migrants crammed in four small boats on Tuesday, bringing the total number caught this week to more than 130. Pictured: Border Force officers bring migrants into the Ports of Dover on Wednesday

Border Force officers stopped 70 migrants crammed in four small boats on Tuesday, bringing the total number caught this week to more than 130. Pictured: Border Force officers bring migrants into the Ports of Dover on Wednesday

But rather than test asylum seekers, the Home Office say they will instead be examined by nurses and doctors for any symptoms of Covid-19.

How are migrants dealt with when they arrive in the UK?

The Home Office say that when migrants are stopped in the Channel and brought into the UK they are first assessed to see if they have any medical need.

Those who arrive in Dover are taken to a special intake unit near the Kent town, where officers make immigration checks on those claiming asylum. 

To be eligible for asylum, the person must have left their country and be unable to go back because of fear of persecution.

Those who are likely to be eligible are moved into asylum accommodation, while those who are not, or are deemed a security risk, are moved to a detention centre, where immigration officers explore grounds for removing them from the UK.

 

Any person showing symptoms will be isolated, including those in detention centres, where special isolation areas have been set up, the Home Office say.

A spokesperson said the policy is in line with guidance from Public Health England (PHE).

It has sparked Dover MP, Natalie Elphicke, to call for those attempting to enter the country illegally to be sent back to France or be put in an immediate 14 day quarantine.

Hundreds of refugees have made it to the UK in recent weeks, taking the total number to more than 630 this year.

On Tuesday, a group of 18 Iranian, Iraqi and Kuwaiti men were picked up in a rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB).

Another RHIB carrying 13 men and two women – who presented themselves as Iraqi and Iranian nationals – also arrived around the same time.

At 5.15am a Border Force vessel intercepted an inflatable boat with 14 men who said they were Iranian and Iraqi.

An hour later another RHIB with 14 men and two women was picked up. The group said they were Yemeni, Syrian, Iraqi and Iranian.   

On Monday, seven migrants from Sudan and Chad were taken in by a Border Force coastal patrol vessel at 4.55am.

They came after 53 refugees arrived on Saturday and a further 12 on Sunday.

The number of asylum seekers stopped today has not yet been released. 

The Home Office said all of the migrants were taken to Dover. 

A spokesperson said: ‘All individuals were brought to Dover and, in line with established processes, will be assessed to establish whether there are any medical requirements. No issues reported.

‘All will be transferred to immigration officials. They will be interviewed and their cases will be dealt with in line with the immigration rules, transferring to detention where appropriate.

The Home Office says asylum seekers will not be tested for coronavirus on arrival, and will instead be checked by nurses and doctors for any symptoms of Covid-19 and will be put into isolation if they are shown. Pictured: Border Force officers stopped four boats on Monday

The Home Office says asylum seekers will not be tested for coronavirus on arrival, and will instead be checked by nurses and doctors for any symptoms of Covid-19 and will be put into isolation if they are shown. Pictured: Border Force officers stopped four boats on Monday

A spokesperson said the procedure to monitor and isolate those showing coronavirus symptoms is in line with guidance from Public Health England (PHE). Pictured: Border Force officers attend to a migrant on Saturday

A spokesperson said the procedure to monitor and isolate those showing coronavirus symptoms is in line with guidance from Public Health England (PHE). Pictured: Border Force officers attend to a migrant on Saturday

The majority of associations helping migrants in migrant camps in places such have Calais have shut down as a result of the coronavirus, making the situation even more desperate for those in the camps. The poor, cramped conditions make infection more likely

The majority of associations helping migrants in migrant camps in places such have Calais have shut down as a result of the coronavirus, making the situation even more desperate for those in the camps. The poor, cramped conditions make infection more likely

‘In line with Public Health England guidance, Border Force and all operational staff have the relevant personal protective equipment available to them.’

Last week it emerged that at least three migrants in camps across Calais and Dunkirk – where around 1,500 are living in squalor – had been diagnosed with coronavirus, sparking fears the disease could be spreading like wildfire in the settlements.

Dover’s Conservative MP, Natalie Elphicke, is one of those to raise concern.

She said: ‘France’s lockdown means people need permission just to walk the dog. So how come hundreds of migrants can still pile into small boats and illegally motor into Britain?

Dover's Conservative MP, Natalie Elphicke, is one of those to raise concern about the spread of coronavirus among migrant camps in France

Dover’s Conservative MP, Natalie Elphicke, is one of those to raise concern about the spread of coronavirus among migrant camps in France

‘We know that the coronavirus has infected the French camps.

‘The French have been paid tens of millions of pounds to stop these dangerous journeys being made – it’s vital the Home Office make the French honour their obligations in order to stop the further spread of the virus into Britain.

‘I have long said that anyone seeking to break into Britain should be immediately returned to France.’

She added: ‘Given the public health risk, anyone arriving who is not returned must be immediately quarantined for 14 days to protect public health – and safeguard the Port of Dover’s vital role in supplying the nation with food and medicines.’ 

Tony Eastaugh, Home Office director for crime and enforcement, said: ‘These crossings are facilitated by criminals. We are doing everything in our power to bring them to justice and stop this illegal activity.

‘We are working around the clock with the NCA and French law enforcement agencies to arrest and dismantle organised crime gangs. Since January 2019, 110 people smugglers have been convicted and imprisoned and over 155 people who arrived on small boats have been returned. 

 ‘And that’s not all, there are now extra patrols on French beaches, drones, specialist vehicles and detection equipment to stop small boats leaving European shores.’

The UK has now seen 60,733 cases of the coronavirus confirmed, with a total of 7,097 deaths

The UK has now seen 60,733 cases of the coronavirus confirmed, with a total of 7,097 deaths

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk