Another 23 migrants intercepted in Channel by UK Border Force

The interception comes after 16 migrants landed on UK shores in three boats on Sunday.

A Border Force cutter on patrol in the Channel near Dover
A Border Force cutter on patrol in the Channel near Dover

A further 23 migrants have been intercepted by the Border Force in the English Channel, bringing the weekend total for arrivals to almost 40.

Border Force cutter HMC Vigilant and Coastal Patrol Vessel (CPV) Hunter were dispatched at around 11.30pm on Sunday to 15 people that were on board a rigid-hulled inflatable boat.

Just four and a half hours later on Monday, at around 4am, HMC Vigilant and CPV Hunter were deployed to help another eight people spotted on board a small boat.

Once located off the coast of Kent, all 23 migrants were taken to Dover, medically assessed and transferred to immigration officials for questioning.

It comes after 16 migrants, all male and most of whom claimed to be Iranian, were detained when three small boats landed on UK shores on Sunday.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
Three rigid-hulled inflatable boats in Dover thought to have been used to transport migrants (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The latest incidents follow a recent rise in the number of migrants attempting to cross the English Channel from France in small boats.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid cut short his Christmas break last month to deal with what he described as a “major incident” unfolding in waters off the south coast.

Mr Javid has promised to do more to tackle the issue, saying it is of “grave concern” that people are attempting the perilous crossing.

Two Border Force cutters that have been operating abroad are due to be brought back to Britain to help patrol the English Channel, in a measure announced by Mr Javid on December 31.

But all three British patrol boats still appear to be abroad, with HMC Seeker confirmed to be in port in Gibraltar, with the website Marine Traffic showing both HMC Protector to be alongside in Malta and HMC Valiant in port in Greece.

Conservative Dover MP Charlie Elphicke pressed Mr Javid in the House of Commons on Monday over when two of the cutters would return to the UK.

The Home Secretary said the arrival of two cutters in the English Channel would not take place until “early February”.

During his question in the House of Commons, Mr Elphicke also called for 24/7 aerial surveillance and a new cross-Channel pact between the two countries to ensure all boats are intercepted and returned.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
Home Secretary Sajid Javid (middle) meeting Border Force staff at Dover (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Mr Javid said “aerial surveillance is already a measure that we have started deploying” since he declared the issue a major incident, and confirmed he would be meeting his French counterpart this week.

Mr Elphicke said in a statement afterwards: “It’s now getting on for a month since we were told the cutters would be brought back from the Med.

“Now we learn they may not return for another few weeks. That is completely unacceptable – they are needed urgently to secure our borders and protect lives.

“The most effective deterrent to people trafficking and the best way to prevent tragedy is for traffickers to know that small craft will always be intercepted and returned to France.

“That’s why when the Home Secretary meets his counterpart he should seek a new cross-Channel compact to put an end to these crossings.”

He added: “This crisis has gone on far too long. Urgent action is now required to bring the crisis to an end before there is a tragedy in the English Channel.”

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