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Calls for British boats to be recalled from the Med to patrol the Channel

Twelve more migrants have been rescued in two separate incidents from small boats today after they were intercepted by a Border Force patrol vessel.

Around 3am this morning, HM Coastguard received reports of a rigid hulled inflatable boat containing four people off the coast of Dover.

A Border Force patrol boat was deployed and four men, three Iranian and one Syrian, were brought in to the port.

Then at 9am the Maritime Intelligence Bureau were notified of a small boat with eight people on board.

Border Force brought eight Iranian adult males to Dover. All of the migrants have been given a medical assessment and transferred to immigration officials for interview.

It comes after 34 migrants, in four different vessels, were picked up in the space of eight hours overnight trying to make the crossing from France to the UK and brings the total number of people caught trying to come into the UK illegally over the Christmas period to 89 – and 300 intercepted since the beginning of November. 

Immigration union officials said the number of migrants crossing since November might be double the number of those intercepted – putting the true figure as high as 500. 

It is feared people smugglers are targeting the holiday period because they believe there will be fewer patrols.

Just one cutter is patrolling UK waters, aided by two smaller craft, it emerged yeserday.

Around 90 migrants have been intercepted since Christmas Day. It is feared they are taking advantage of calm seas, a full moon, and reduced patrols over the Christmas period

Yesterday it emerged that one one navy cutter was patrolling the Channel during the Christmas period, aided by two smaller boats

Yesterday it emerged that one one navy cutter was patrolling the Channel during the Christmas period, aided by two smaller boats

Damian Collins, MP for Folkestone, said the priority should be to stop smuggling gangs getting boats i the water in the first place

Damian Collins, MP for Folkestone, said the priority should be to stop smuggling gangs getting boats i the water in the first place

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s The World At One this lunchtime, Damian Collins, MP for Folkestone proposed: ‘Going out and getting them at sea if we can…under maritime law we are required to bring them back to the nearest port. 

‘So what we should see really is much closer enforcement of the French coast so they are return to the French ports.

‘But ideally effective police action to identify the gangs and stop the boats getting in the water in the first place.’

He added: ‘We need to stop this happening. And one of the ways to stop this happening is to make it clear to the gangs they will be caught and face criminal action, and for the migrants themselves this isn’t an easy way into the country.

‘We need that deterrent in place to stop people being prepared to risk their lives, probably all the money they have got, to put their lives in the hands of people traffickers.’

‘The most effective role these boats could play would be to spot these small craft much earlier in these journeys. If we spotted them when they were closer to the French coast, under maritime law they should be returned to the nearest safe port.’

He argued there was a relatively small number of landing spots and launch sites.

Border Force union chiefs claimed far more migrants are attempting the perilous crossing than the 300 said to have done so in the past eight weeks.

Lucy Moreton of the Immigration Services Union, told The Sun: ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s 50 per cent higher and at least 450 to 500.

‘You’re only currently hearing about the ones picked up by RNLI or the coastguard, Border Force don’t publish their numbers.

‘And then of course you’ve got the ones who make it successfully – that no one will ever know about.’

David Wood, who was head of immigration enforcement, warned lives would be lost unless the Government adopted a new approach.

He told the Telegraph: ‘We have to stop this or it will grow and grow. It will escalate. The answer is to return them to France as soon as they are picked up.

‘As far as organised crime is concerned, it [Home Office policy] has de-risked their business.

‘They know they don’t have to get right across the Channel and land, they can get half way across and the migrants will be taken the rest of the way.

‘Given that the immigrants travelled from France, it would not be unlawful if the French agreed. In theory, under the Dublin agreement, there are circumstances when immigrants can be returned to France even when landed in the UK.

‘Britain’s border force, coastguards and lifeboats are being used as a taxi service for the migrants. There will be a hue and cry when a boat full of 12 migrants sinks and they die.’

Immigration minister Caroline Nokes blamed illegal people smugglers for some of the recent dangerous crossings, adding that British and French police were ‘working together 24 hours a day’ and the National Crime Agency (NCA) was working to ‘stop people smuggling at source’.

But Conservative MP for Dover, Charlie Elphicke, called on the Home Office and NCA to get more involved, demanding authorities ‘get a grip’ and step up patrols by cutters in the Channel.

Nine Iranians, including three children, were found on a beach in Kent yesterday after crossing the world’s busiest shipping lane in darkness in a 13ft dinghy. Another 14 Iranian men were stopped in two boats near Dover, and French authorities intercepted another 11 people as they set out from Calais, where five needed treatment for hypothermia.

The boats have also been helped by calm seas and a full moon.

It comes after ministers faced calls to recall British patrol boats from the Mediterranean to the English Channel today amid a surge in attempts to get into Britain. 

Just two boats are available to the Border Force – and only one is at sea during a winter surge of 300 people across unusually calm Channel waters. 

The demands on Home Secretary Sajid Javid came as Diane Abbott warned the Government there was a duty to help people stranded in the water.

The shadow home secretary also called for work with the French to stop people travelling at all – pointing out if migrants reach UK waters they are allowed to claim asylum here.

Amid the mounting row a former Home Office official said migrants who manage to reach Britain must be sent back to France to avoid encouraging others. 

The French Patrolman of Gendarmerie boat, the Athos, rescued 11 migrants 15 miles off Calais at 1.45am yesterday

The French Patrolman of Gendarmerie boat, the Athos, rescued 11 migrants 15 miles off Calais at 1.45am yesterday

The migrants' dinghy was spotted by passenger ships in French waters around midnight

The migrants’ dinghy was spotted by passenger ships in French waters around midnight

A migrant seized off a Channel boat yesterday is escorted through Dover by officials

A migrant seized off a Channel boat yesterday is escorted through Dover by officials

A rib boat seized by officials earlier this month after it brought migrants across the Channel

A rib boat seized by officials earlier this month after it brought migrants across the Channel

Dover MP Charlie Elphicke said: ‘It’s time to bring back our boats before there is a tragedy in the English Channel.’ 

Ms Abbott told the Today programme the focus had to be on ‘saving lives’.

She said: ‘We need to stop them making the crossing in the first place.’

The shadow home secretary added: ‘It may be that we should be increasing the patrols.

‘But that’s only a palliative. You have to stop making the crossing in the first place.

‘And you have to recognise that once they’re in British waters they’re entitled to claim asylum.’

She added: ‘We need to work with the French to work with these people and advise them on what their real options are.’

Earlier, David Wood, who was head of immigration enforcement, warned lives would be lost unless the Government adopted a new approach.

There were a further 34 attempted crossings overnight yesterday, bringing the total number rescued from the Channel since November to 300 and 82 since Christmas Day.

It is feared people smugglers are targeting the holiday period because they believe there will be fewer patrols. Just one cutter is patrolling UK waters, aided by two smaller craft.

‘We have to stop this or it will grow and grow. It will escalate. The answer is to return them to France as soon as they are picked up,’ Mr Wood said. ‘If we did that straight away, they would realise that paying £5,000 to the people smugglers would achieve nothing.’

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott (file image) warned the Government there was a duty to help people stranded in the water 

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott (file image) warned the Government there was a duty to help people stranded in the water 

Criticising the Home Office’s handling of the crisis, Mr Wood told the Daily Telegraph: ‘As far as organised crime is concerned, it’s de-risked their business.

‘They know they don’t have to get right across the Channel and land, they can get half way across and the migrants will be taken the rest of the way.

‘Given that the immigrants travelled from France, it would not be unlawful if the French agreed. In theory, under the Dublin agreement, there are circumstances when immigrants can be returned to France even when landed in the UK.

‘Britain’s border force, coastguards and lifeboats are being used as a taxi service for the migrants. There will be a hue and cry when a boat full of 12 migrants sinks and they die.’ 

Migrants are brought about a Navy boat by officials after being found in the Channel yesterday

Migrants are brought about a Navy boat by officials after being found in the Channel yesterday

The beach at Sandgate, where the migrants came ashore at around 2am this morning

The beach at Sandgate, where the migrants came ashore at around 2am this morning

Tim Loughton, a senior Tory MP on the Commons home affairs committee, last night said Home Office resources had been drained by Brexit preparations and fixing mistakes made with the Windrush generation.

He suggested that more coastguard cutters were needed to avoid ‘the impression of being a soft touch again’.

Immigration minister Caroline Nokes admitted the numbers were ‘deeply concerning’ and blamed organised gangs.

In yesterday’s latest cases, five Iranian men, one woman, two boys and a girl were found on the beach at Sandgate, near Folkestone, in the early hours. Coastguards spotted their boat. The children were handed over to social services and the adults were transferred to immigration forces.

The Home Office failed to respond to questions from the Mail on whether there had been fewer Border Force patrols during the Christmas break.

Conservative MP for Dover, Charlie Elphicke, called on the Home Office and NCA to get more involved, demanding authorities ‘get a grip’ and step up patrols by cutters in the Channel. 

Immigration minister Mrs Nokes blamed illegal people smugglers for some of the recent dangerous crossings, adding that British and French police were ‘working together 24 hours a day’ and the National Crime Agency (NCA) was working to ‘stop people smuggling at source’.

As the full scale of the problem emerged, it was revealed that yesterday alone: 

  • At around half past midnight, nine migrants including three children, were detained near Battery Point near Sandgate in Kent after crossing the English Channel in a dinghy. 
  • At 1.45am French authorities stopped a boat contain 11 would-be migrants in a small boat off Sangatte in northern France, and returned the passengers to Boulogne.
  • At 8.30am a small inflatable craft containing six adult male migrants was met by UK Border Force officers on Shakespeare Beach in Dover.
  • And at 8.45 eight men in a dinghy off the coast of Dover were stopped by immigration officers. 
Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes blamed people traffickers for some of the recent crossings

Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes blamed people traffickers for some of the recent crossings

RNLI Lifeboats were scrambled at 12.30am yesterday to reports that a small RIB (rigid-hulled inflatable boat) was in the water off the coast of Folkestone.

A coastguard helicopter from Lydd in Kent illuminated the scene by searchlight helping RNLI volunteers from Littlestone lifeboat station find the 13ft boat, which by the time they arrived was ashore at Sandgate, just west of Folkestone.

Charlie Davies, operations manager of RNLI Littlestone, told MailOnline that his crew found the dinghy on the beach, adding: ‘The persons on the rib had gone ashore, and were apprehended by Border Force and Kent Police.’

Home Office confirmed they attended to nine Iranian migrants – five men, one woman, two boys, and one girl – who are being processed by immigration officials.

Each of the migrants have been given a medical assessment and transferred to immigration officials for interview – in the case of the adults – or into the care of social services.

Eleven migrants were rescued by French authorities in a small boat which was spotted by passenger ships in French waters off Calais around midnight.

The French coastal authority, the Maritime Prefecture of the English Channel and North Sea, said a Patrolman of Gendarmerie (PCG) boat, the Athos, was sent to rescue the migrants.

Dover MP Charlie Elphicke demanded that authorities get a grip on the situation and increase patrols

Dover MP Charlie Elphicke demanded that authorities get a grip on the situation and increase patrols

She located their semi-rigid boat 15 nautical miles north west of Calais.

The Athos recovered eleven adults – including five in a state of hypothermia – at 1:45am yesterday and returned all aboard to Boulogne for treatment and processing.

Each migrant has been given a medical assessment and transferred to immigration officials for interview.

Charlie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover, has demanded that authorities ‘get a grip’ on Christmas crossings asking why the National Crime Agency – often called Britain’s FBI – did not seem to be more involved.

He said: ‘With well over 100 migrants having broken into Britain in recent weeks the [Home Office and NCA] need urgently to explain what they are doing to put a stop to these crossings.

‘This is an incredibly dangerous crossing to make in the middle of winter. Our volunteer lifeboat crews are being called out nearly every day.

‘The British and French authorities must get a grip and find and stop the traffickers… before there is a tragedy.’

He added: ‘It’s time the Home Office took this problem more seriously and stepped up resources along the Kent coast – with more cutters and patrol craft.

‘We need to see more investment in stronger borders, all the way along our coast.’  

On Christmas Day French authorities intercepted this rubber dinghy (pictured) off the coast of Calais carrying nine migrants after the engine on their boat failed in a bid to cross the Channel

On Christmas Day French authorities intercepted this rubber dinghy (pictured) off the coast of Calais carrying nine migrants after the engine on their boat failed in a bid to cross the Channel

A total of 40 migrants were taken into custody by British officials on Christmas Day

A total of 40 migrants were taken into custody by British officials on Christmas Day

It emerged last month that people smugglers are charging migrants up to £13,000 each to cross the Channel by dinghy.

One family of would-be asylum seekers was charged £40,000 for the dangerous night-time sea crossing.

So-called ‘agents’ have already charged families to reach the French coast. Many fly from Iran to countries such as Serbia or Turkey, before being smuggled across borders to make overland journeys across Europe.

People traffickers then demand a further fee to get them to British soil. Individuals pay as much as £13,300 a head (15,000 euros) to board rubber dinghies for the freezing night journey.

Pictured: French authorities rescuing a boat containing nine migrants in the Channel on Christmas Day 

Pictured: French authorities rescuing a boat containing nine migrants in the Channel on Christmas Day 

Criminal gangs have been smuggling migrants across the Channel in dinghies such as this Zodiac, pictured earlier this month in Dover, Kent. Six people made it into the UK in this boat

Criminal gangs have been smuggling migrants across the Channel in dinghies such as this Zodiac, pictured earlier this month in Dover, Kent. Six people made it into the UK in this boat

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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