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New fleet of Border Force boats guards Kent coast from illegal immigrants on makeshift vessels across Channel

By Paul Francis

A fleet of Border Force vessels has been assigned to patrol the Kent coast amid fears migrants are resorting to increasingly desperate attempts to reach Britain.

The Home Office has deployed cutter boats - usually used to track drug smugglers - to look out for and detain migrants trying to cross the Channel from Calais in makeshift rafts, dinghies and small boats.

It has been welcomed by Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke, who said it was not a disproportionate step and was in the interests of the safety of migrants.

Migrants are prepared to risk death to get to the UK

"It is something I have been calling for," he said. "The UK border controls are working very efficiently... there has been an increase in this type of craft being picked up. When they are, they are taken back to Calais."

In a statement, the Home Office said: "Border Force has also stepped up patrols of the UK's coast by is fleet of cutters to prevent attempts to enter the UK illegally."

"If they are just seeking to evade immigration control they need to know that they are risking their lives and that they will get caught..." - immigration minister James Brokenshire

The growing number of migrants gathered at Calais has triggered concern among the authorities.

In May, French police removed about 800 migrants from Asia, the Middle East and Africa who were occupying camps near the port.

However, new camps have sprung up in different parts of the town in recent months.

Many migrants have turned to increasingly dangerous attempts to cross the channel, including trying to hide under freight lorries.

Immigration minister James Brokenshire said: "Security at the UK border is our priority and we will continue to strengthen it to stop those who have no right to enter the UK.

"If people have a genuine need of protection they should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach. If they are just seeking to evade immigration control they need to know that they are risking their lives and that they will get caught."

Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke

In May, French coastguards saved a 23-year-old Afghan man trying to cross the Channel on a makeshift raft using a bedsheet as a sail.

The youth - who had fashioned the raft with strips of wood and canvas, with a table leg serving as a mast - was rescued off Sangatte near Calais.

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