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Fears of asylum seeker tragedy in English waters


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Rescue crews have called off a major search operation as fears grow of another asylum seeker tragedy in English waters.

It was initially feared three people had died after setting off from France towards Kent and being blown off course in bad weather.

A search and rescue mission is taking place in the sea off Harwich in Essex (Ian West/PA)
A search and rescue mission is taking place in the sea off Harwich in Essex (Ian West/PA)

A sinking dinghy was rescued last night off the coast of Harwich, Essex, but after a search and rescue operation two people were brought to safety.

The rescued pair are both Somali nationals and it is understood they are now being processed within immigration rules.

But an “extensive search” for a third man, involving the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Border Force and the RNLI, was called off at around 2pm.

The Home Office described the incident as a “reminder of the extreme dangers of crossing the Channel in small boats” and vowed they are “determined to do everything we can to prevent people dying in the Channel”.

A spokesperson for the department said: “This afternoon an extensive search and rescue operation for a man reported to have entered the water off the Essex coast concluded.

“We want to thank those who responded to this incident and who continue to work tirelessly to protect lives at sea whilst securing our border.

“While the investigation into this incident continues, it is a reminder of the extreme dangers of crossing the Channel in small boats and the callous disregard for life shown by the criminal gangs.

“We are determined to do everything we can to prevent people dying in the Channel.

“The Government’s New Plan for Immigration, and ongoing work with the French Government, will help us crack down on organised criminals and reform the asylum system to deter people from attempting these deadly crossings.”

Harwich lifeboat launched at 4.05pm on Monday, returned and then launched again at 11.35pm, before going back to shore at 8am on Tuesday.

The RNLI said: “RNLI lifeboats from Harwich and Walton and Frinton were involved in a search and rescue operation to a suspected person in the water.

“All have been stood down by HM Coastguard, who are continuing to co-ordinate the search with Border Force.”

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said a Coastguard helicopter and a plane were sent to the incident, adding: “HM Coastguard has been co-ordinating a search and rescue response to an incident off Essex, working with Border Force and other partners.”

On Tuesday, UK authorities rescued or intercepted 145 people in five incidents, while French authorities intercepted five events, preventing 137 people from reaching the UK, the Home Office said.

On Sunday, UK authorities rescued or intercepted 29 people and there were no French interceptions, the department added.

Asylum seekers with officials at Romney Marsh Submitted picture
Asylum seekers with officials at Romney Marsh Submitted picture

Previously, a baby died after a boat carrying asylum seekers capsized off Dunkirk.

Artin, 15 months, and four other people died in the tragedy as they tried to reach Britain last year.

This year, more than 10,000 asylum seekers have reached English shores.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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