Published: 11:23, 17 December 2019
| Updated: 20:55, 17 December 2019
An MP is demanding action after 69 migrants in small boats were intercepted trying to cross the English Channel this morning.
They were picked up and brought ashore to Dover in five separate incidents between 12.45am and 7.45am.
A Border Force vessel intercepted first a boat carrying eight men, who presented themselves as Iranians, at around 12.45am.
Then at around 3.35am another boat carrying 18 people - 14 men, two women, and two minors - was stopped.
The nationalities of those involved has yet to be established.
In the third incident, at around 5.10am, a Border Force vessel came across a boat carrying nine people - made up of seven men and two minors - all said to be Iranian.
Then at around 5.30am a boat which had 23 people on board - 14 men, five women, and four minors - was stopped.
They identified themselves as Iranian, Iraqi, and Uzbek nationals.
Another boat carrying eight men, a woman, and two minors, identifying themselves as Iranian, were intercepted by a Border Force vessel at around 7.45am.
All those on board have been medically assessed and will be interviewed by immigration officials.
At the beginning of this month 79 migrants were picked up in five small boat incidents, which was the highest number of people recorded in a day since crossings by small craft have been reported over the last year.
The latest incident, reported by Sky News, follows numerous cases of migrants attempting the perilous crossing to reach British shores at different points off the coasts of Dover, Folkestone, Hythe, Romney Marsh, and Thanet this year.
Newly elected Dover & Deal MP Natalie Elphicke is seeking an urgent meeting with the Home Secretary following the reports.
She said: "The French have been given tens of millions of pounds of British hard-earned taxpayers' money to stop illegal departures from their shores. I want to know where the money has gone.
"The French have been given tens of millions of pounds of British hard-earned taxpayers' money to stop illegal departures from their shores" - MP Natalie Elphicke
“Because while much has been done, it is clear there is more to do. More to do tackling the people traffickers behind this shocking trade in people.
"More to do making sure anyone found in the Channel is immediately sent back to France."
Bridget Chapman, of the Kent Refugee Action Network, said past experience showed "most of the people" arriving across the Channel on boats "have very good claims for asylum" and legally they could not be sent back without their claim being processed.
She added: "We ask that people seeking asylum are treated with compassion and humanity and urge the government to look for safe and legal routes for them to make their asylum claims so that they do not have to make this dangerous crossing."
The UK has returned more than 120 migrants who entered the UK illegally via small boats back to Europe this year.
A Home Office spokesman said: "Those attempting to cross the Channel in small boats are putting their lives in grave danger and the ruthless criminals who facilitate crossings do not care about the risk to life.
"We are working closely at all levels with the French authorities to tackle this dangerous and illegal activity.
"Patrols on French beaches have been doubled and action to disrupt criminal gangs has been intensified."