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Migrants - 38 picked up by Border Force in three cases off Kent in Dungeness and Greatstone area

By Sam Lennon

Nearly 40 migrants have been stopped trying to make their way to Kent today.

Authorities dealt with three separate incidents, involving a total 38 people on the British side of the Channel, plus another involving 15 people on the French side.

The Home Office confirmed a Border Force Coastal patrol vessel intercepted 29 men, women and children, from two small boats travelling across the Channel towards the UK coast.

A dinghy recovered on the Marsh coast today. Picture: Susan Pilcher
A dinghy recovered on the Marsh coast today. Picture: Susan Pilcher

A third small boat was also recovered at Dungeness beach.

The nine people who had arrived on the vessel were dealt with by Kent Police.

All 38 people, who presented themselves as Iraqi and Iranian nationals, were medically assessed and have now been passed to immigration officers for interview.

A criminal investigation is underway in relation to the three UK incidents.

Meanwhile, the French authorities intercepted a fourth small boat with 15 migrants on board. This was returned to France.

An abandoned dinghy was found on the beach at Greastone, which neighbours Dungeness.

The suspected migrants were met by officers from Kent Police. Picture: Susan Pilcher
The suspected migrants were met by officers from Kent Police. Picture: Susan Pilcher

The people intercepted on Romney Marsh had been seen being put into a police car.

Both police and HM Coastguard had helped Border Force officials with these incidents.

A police spokesman said: "We were called to a report of a boat containing people on the shore in Dungeness Road area of Lydd at 7.17am today.

"Officers attended to assist Border Force."

Today's figures mean that since November 8 there has been 69 incidents involving 724 people.

These have been cases where migrants, confirmed and suspected, have landed on the east Kent coast or been rescued and brought in by British authorities.

Other instances have also happened at Dover, Kingsdown, and Folkestone.

The figure rises to 80 cases, involving 868 people, if those stopped by the French and brought back to France are included.

The rescue of 15 people on the French side of the Channel. Picture: préfecture maritime de la Manche et de la mer du Nord
The rescue of 15 people on the French side of the Channel. Picture: préfecture maritime de la Manche et de la mer du Nord

The migrant boat on the French side had seven children on board.

French rescue services were alerted 4am (BST) when the occupants of a dinghy made a distress call when their engine failed.

The craft, headed for the English coast, was then spotted by a French navy helicopter 10 miles north-west of the Cap Gris Nez headland between Calais and Boulogne.

The migrants were picked up by the Gendarmerie coastal surveillance vessel Escaut and towed to shore, where they were met by border police.

They were described as shocked but in good health.

A British Home Office spokesman said: “Anyone crossing the Channel in a small boat is taking a huge risk with their life and the lives of their children.

“Since the Home Secretary declared a major incident in December, two cutters have returned to UK waters from overseas operations.

"We have also agreed a joint action plan with France and increased activity out of the Joint Coordination and Information Centre in Calais."

Last week, the Home Secretary and the French Interior Minister, Christophe Castaner, agreed to continue to explore options to reinforce the efforts already being made.

A HM Coastguard spokesman said: "HM Coastguard is committed to safeguarding life around the seas and coastal areas of this country.

"We are only concerned with preservation of life, rescuing those in trouble and bringing them safely back to shore, where they will be handed over to the relevant partner emergency services or authorities."

Read more: All the latest news from Deal

Read more: All the latest news from Dover

Read more: All the latest news from Folkestone

Read more: All the latest news from Romney Marsh

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