Ferry crew help rescue sinking dinghy full of migrants in the English Channel as Border Force intercept up to 23 people trying to make the crossing
- EXCLUSIVE: Group of migrants lit flare seen by ferry after boat started sinking
- Ferry’s captain called the coastguard and waited until helicopter arrived
- Latest in a series of dangerous crossings by groups setting out from France
A cross channel ferry helped rescue of a group of migrants this morning when their dinghy began sinking a couple of miles from the white cliffs of Dover.
Wrapped up in life-jackets, the 14 people on board frantically appealed for help after they were spotted by the crew of the DFDA passenger ferry, shortly after dawn.
British trucker Martin Cassidy told how passenger watched in horror when they saw the dangerous state of the tiny boat.
‘The dingy was very low in the water and the migrants were firing flares asking to be rescued,’ the 49-year-old expat driver told MailOnline.
A group of migrants in the Channel were spotted by the ferry crew early this morning
Lifejackets left by migrants after landing by boat on Shakespeare Beach in Dover, Kent
Migrants also left behind a pitiful pile of clothing on the beach where they landed
Border Force officers are pictured dealing with up to 23 migrants who arrived in Dover this morning
The small dinghy was photographed by ferry passengers a few miles from the white cliffs
The captain of the DFDS ferry raised the alarm when the tiny inflatable was sighted in its path across the Channel from France – one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
The freight and passenger ship circled the overcrowded dingy for several minutes while the Dover Coastguard dispatched first a helicopter and then two rescue boats to save the stranded migrants.
The inflatable had almost made it across the 26-mile stretch of sea powered by an out-board motor, before it was spotted.
‘They were all wearing life-jackets but you could tell they were all very wet and afraid.’said Mr Cassidy.
‘An announcement came over the tannoy saying there was a delay. It must have been about 6.45am,’he added
‘Then I looked out of the window and saw this tiny orange boat. You could tell it was a migrant dingy. They were about two miles from the coast of Britain.
‘It was a very cold night, the water was quite choppy, so they must have been getting very wet.’
The group lit a flare after their vessel reportedly started taking on water this morning
A ferry called the coastguard who went out to rescue the group
He added: ‘The ferry kept a safe distance from the dingy but kept circling until a coastguard helicopter came over. And then we saw two coastguard boats coming out of the port of Dover.’
A spokeswoman for DFDS told MailOnline the ship’s captain had followed procedure to wait at a safe distance from the tiny vessel until the coastguard arrived.
She added: ‘Sadly this is a regular occurrence.’
The dangerous dingy crossing is the latest in a growing flotilla of small boats packed with migrants trying to reach the UK by sea.
An estimated 1,000 people have reached the UK so far this year, with illegal crossings from the beaches of northern France attempted almost every night.
Hundreds of others have been rescued from the sea in small boats and returned to France. At least five migrants have drowned in recent weeks trying to make it to Britain.