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Boat with eight suspected migrants 'towed into Port of Dover'

By Mary Graham

Sixteen suspected migrants have been detained after being found off the Kent coast.

The Home Office confirmed that eight men were found on the county's beaches before a boat with another eight men was spotted in the Channel at Dover.

Around 7am on Sunday Border Force officials received reports of a rib and six men on the beach at Kingsdown, near Deal.

The boat being towed into Dover. Picture courtesy of Sky News
The boat being towed into Dover. Picture courtesy of Sky News

They stated they were Iraqi and Iranian and received a medical assessment.

Just over an hour later two men were found at The Warren in Folkestone, after officers were told about an unattended rib.

No people were found nearby but two men who said they were Iranian, and identified as migrants, were detained at Folkestone Police station.

Around 9.30am Border Force intercepted a vessel off the coast of Dover with eight men who said they were Iranian. This was towed into the Port of Dover.

All 16 have had medical assessments and have been transferred to immigration officials for interviews.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency confirmed it had been assisting Border Force officials throughout Sunday morning.

Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke said: "Crossing the English Channel in a small boat in the middle of Winter is incredibly dangerous. Only yesterday we saw a terrible tragedy in the Mediterranean. It’s vital to do everything possible to protect life and prevent a tragedy in the English Channel.

The boat pictured off the coast of Dover Picture supplied courtesy of Sky News
The boat pictured off the coast of Dover Picture supplied courtesy of Sky News

"Much has been achieved in recent weeks - recalling Border Force cutters from overseas, the arrival of HMS Mersey and deeper co-operation with the French. Yet greater action is needed. In particular, there needs to be round the clock aerial surveillance of the English Channel to ensure the French authorities are alerted to any small craft leaving the French coast so they can be helped safely back to France.

MP Charlie Elphicke: 'There should be round-the-clock surveillance of the English Channel
MP Charlie Elphicke: 'There should be round-the-clock surveillance of the English Channel

"The most effective deterrent to people trafficking and the best way to prevent tragedy is for traffickers to know boats will always be intercepted and returned to France."

Earlier this month it was announced two Border Force ships would be patrolling the Channel to tackle the ongoing problem of migrants crossing from France.

Around 200 suspected migrants were found crossing the Channel over the Christmas and New Year period.

On December 30, six Iranian men were pictured on Kingsdown Beach after making the crossing and the day after, Border Force officers were called to another group in Greatstone.

One of the Border Force boats in Dover Harbour. Picture: Sam Lennon
One of the Border Force boats in Dover Harbour. Picture: Sam Lennon

Home Secretary Sajid Javid called the rising number attempts by migrants to cross the English Channel a “major incident.”

Meanwhile, 170 people are unaccounted for in the Mediterranean after two separate shipwrecks this week.

The Italian navy has reported a ship sank off the coast of Libya with 117 people on board, while Moroccan and Spanish authorities have tried to find a lost boat in the western Mediterranean.

The practice of migrants trying to reach Britain by dinghy has returned after a three-week lull.

There were a total 35 know cases involving 288 people from November 8 to New Year's Eve, mostly through dinghies and other small craft.

The figure also includes those picked up in French waters and brought back to France for questioning by the authorities there.

The three incidents on Sunday, January 20, the first reported in 2019, brings the total amount of cases to 46, involving a total 396 people.

The first known case of 2018 had been where eight people were found on Romney Marsh on January 7.

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