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Rescues after suspected migrants spotted in small boats in English Channel, including in Sandgate and Dover

By Molly Mileham-Chappell

Three rescues have taken place in the English Channel since the early hours of this morning after suspected migrants were spotted in small boats.

Nine people were found on the Kent shore after Littlestone Lifeboat Station launched volunteer crews in the night following reports of a small inflatable boat off of Sandgate, near Folkestone.

Initial reports had suggested that there were 11 people on board, but the Home Office confirmed they attended to nine.

Border Force officer
Border Force officer

A Home Office spokesman said they received a report from Dover Coastguard of a vessel sighted west of Folkestone just before midnight last night.

He said: "Border Force officers were deployed to attend on shore and a total of nine migrants have been detained at Folkestone.

"Five adult males, one adult female, two male minors and one female minor are being processed in line with inmigration rules."

Paramedics were called to the scene just before 1am this morning.

SECAmb spokesman Brian Cumming said: "We attended to nine migrants who had come off a vessel and were on the Esplanade Sandgate.

"Four vehicles from our Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) team attended to assess the patients for hypothermia.

"All were treated on scene and passed on to Border Forces officials."

A police spokesman said: "Police were made aware of a report of a number of people in a boat seen near the coast in Sandgate, Folkestone, at 00.14am on Thursday, December 27.

"Officers attended to assist Border Force who are dealing with the matter."

Littlestone Lifeboat Station posted the news on their Facebook page in the early hours: "With guidance from rescue helicopter 163 from Lydd, the vessel was found with its occupants safely ashore.

"The Police and Border Force were in attendance.

"The Lifeboat towed the vessel to Dover Lifeboat which was also tasked and they have towed it back to Dover harbour."

The French rescue this morning ©Gendarmeriemaritime (6215927)
The French rescue this morning ©Gendarmeriemaritime (6215927)

The lifeboat was returned to the station before 3am, but Littlestone station manager Matt Crittenden added that a second vessel was taken by a French warship back to France.

The second small boat was spotted by several passenger ships in French waters off of Calais around midnight.

French coastal authority Maritime Prefecture of the English Channel and North Sea said that the Patrolman of Gendarmerie Athos was sent to rescue the migrants, and managed to locate the semi-rigid boat 15 nautical miles north west of Calais.

The Athos recovered eleven adults including five in a state of hypothermia at 1:45am and received further assistance once docked in Boulogne.

The French rescue this morning ©Gendarmeriemaritime (6215934)
The French rescue this morning ©Gendarmeriemaritime (6215934)

In addition, reports have also been made of a suspected four more migrants near Dover this morning.

A Police spokesman said: "At 8.35am on Thursday, December 27, Kent Police was made aware of a boat containing a number of people seen on the shore near Shakespeare Cliff in Dover.

"The incident is being dealt with by Border Force, and HM Coastguard are also in attendance."

The Home Office confirmed that a small boat was identified at Dover this morning and Border Force are assisting with the operation.

It comes after more than 40 migrants were picked up on Christmas Day.

More as we get it.

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