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more migrants brave calm waters



Helicopters and rescue boats are patrolling the English Channel amid fears that migrants are risking the dangerous journey from France while waters are calm.

Nine migrants – including three children – were picked up by Border Force officers at Sandgate, to the west of Folkestone on the Kent coast, this morning.

They follow three others yesterday and 40 more on Christmas Day.

Immigration minister Caroline Nokes said: “The number of incidents over recent days is deeply concerning.

“Some of this is clearly facilitated by organised crime groups while other attempts appear to be opportunistic.

“Attempting to cross the Channel in this way is extremely dangerous and they are putting their lives at risk.”

The migrants are thought to have travelled across the Channel from France

The latest group – five men, one woman, two boys and a girl – are believed to have used a small boat, which was recovered at Dover, to cross the Channel.

A stack of inflatable boats, all about 13-metres-long with small outboard motors, are piled up at a dock in Dover – and Sky News footage shows another similar craft being loaded onto a trailer and removed from a beach today.

It is believed the latest boat to arrive had been pushed back out to sea after reaching land.

The scene at Dover
A stack of boats, believed to have been used by migrants, stored at Dover

The craft was about three miles off shore when it was spotted and the alarm raised. A helicopter was deployed to find the occupants, who were then picked up by police on a beach.

Littlestone lifeboat station manager Matt Crittenden said: “There were very scant details. We launched at around 1am and headed down and Rescue 163, the rescue Coastguard helicopter from Lydd, joined us.”

Sky News’ senior correspondent Ian Woods, who is on the Kent coast, said: “The weather is very calm. The sea is incredibly still.

“All the locals here tell us they’ve never seen anything quite like this in December… conditions so still and calm as this.”

Sky News footage shows a boat being picked up at the Kent coast as more migrants brave the Channel crossing 27/12/2018
The boats being used by migrants would not be much use in rough conditions but may be adequate in the current calm weather

He added that the kind of boats being used by migrants would not normally be much use in rough conditions, but they may be adequate for crossing the Channel in the current weather.

“They’ve obviously also bargained on the fact that, perhaps as it’s Christmas, the shipping lanes might not be as busy as usual and there may be less security – although that is not actually the case.

“People in this area say there have been a lot of patrols, both out at sea and also the helicopter keeping an eye on things.”

Speaking about today’s rescue, Mr Crittenden added: “I am sure it won’t be the last that we go to… they are very desperate people.”

While there are no official figures available, Sky News believes around 180 people attempted to cross the Channel in November.

Some of those rescued have been suffering hypothermia.

Over recent days, a crew from Dover lifeboat station was dispatched after up to eight migrants were spotted by passengers on the Spirit Of Britain ferry.

Christmas Day saw migrants picked up in five separate incidents.

A Border Force cutter patrolling the waters off Deal. Pic: Simon Moores
A Border Force cutter patrolling the waters off Deal. Pic: Simon Moores

Those on board the boats said they were from Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, and at least two children were travelling with the groups.

On Boxing Day, British officials confirmed that three more migrants were intercepted after attempting to take a small boat across the Channel.

The Border Force was made aware that three male adult migrants on board a small boat had been rescued by the French authorities near Dover.

The semi-rigid boat was 3.5 metres in size and was detected during a mission of surveillance of navigation around 16.4km (10 miles) from the French coast.

The migrants, who presented themselves as Iranian, were transferred to the UK authorities and taken onshore at Dover by a Border Force vessel.

It is understood the crossings are being organised by smuggling gangs who charge thousands of pounds.

The Home Office said earlier this week that it is working with French officials to try to shut down the people smuggling.

A spokesperson said: “We are working closely with the French and law enforcement partners to target these gangs, who exploit vulnerable people and put lives at risk.”

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