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18 migrants rescued off Kent coast from sinking boat at Dungeness

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Two Brits are being interviewed by immigration officials after the boat they were on with 18 migrants started sinking off the Kent coast this morning.

A helicopter was scrambled along with lifeboat and local coastguard crews following reports the rigid-hulled inflatable had been spotted near Dymchurch shortly before midnight and was taking on water.

The incident has prompted a warning from the French coastguard there is an imminent danger of migrant deaths in the Channel.

The Coastguard helicopter was involved. stock pic: @DadswellToby
The Coastguard helicopter was involved. stock pic: @DadswellToby

The 18 Albanian migrants were eventually found at 2am and taken ashore to Dover by border control officers.

Following the rescue operation, the President of the French coastguard, Bernard Barron, told Sky News he believed the suspected smuggler craft was unsuitable for crossing the Channel.

He said: "It's starting to become a very similar situation to that seen in the Mediterranean and my biggest fear is that the same kind of tragedies we see in Greece or Italy will start to repeat in the Channel."

Mr Barron said "smugglers have now found a new strategy" after it had become "virtually impossible" for migrants to cross into the UK via the Channel Tunnel or on ferries.

He added "They operate across the length of both the French and Belgian coastlines, between Ostend and into Normandy, finding new positions from where they can send their clients - the migrants - towards England.

"These smugglers - despite being given large sums of money - provide methods of transport for the migrants that are not suitable for crossing a sea like the English Channel.

"It's a sea filled with danger, with strong currents, storms and heavy traffic of larger vessels."

All the people on board who were rescued remain in the custody of the UK Border Force and have been taken to Dover to be interviewed.

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