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Two children among 20 rescued after boat sinks in English Channel

Published 29/05/2016

A search and rescue helicopter was deployed
A search and rescue helicopter was deployed

Two children were among a group of 18 Albanians and two British people rescued from the English Channel after their inflatable boat began to sink.

The UK Coastguard received a call for assistance just off the coast of Dymchurch in Kent at 11.40pm on Saturday. A search-and-rescue helicopter was deployed as well as lifeboats and coastguard rescue teams.

The rhib (rigid-hulled inflatable boat), with 20 people on board, was found at 2am and the matter was handed over to Border Force.

It has been reported the people on board had alerted their families in Calais, who raised the alarm with the French authorities.

A Home Office spokesman confirmed that there was one woman and two children aboard the boat. He added that a second vessel was discovered on the beach at Dymchurch which was believed could be linked to the boat that got into trouble.

The spokesman said: "A total of 20 people were picked up in a search and rescue operation. 18 were Albanian, and two were British. There was one woman, and two minors.

"They were taken to Dover and are currently being interviewed by Border Force officers.

"Two Border Force cutters were involved in the rescue operation alongside the UK coastguard.

"A separate vessel was also discovered on the beach at Dymchurch. It is not known at this stage if it is linked to the other vessel.

"This vessel has now been removed from the scene and has been seized by law enforcement."

A Coastguard statement said: "The UK Coastguard has co-ordinated an incident off Dymchurch to rescue the occupants of a rhib overnight.

"A call was received at 11.40pm yesterday requesting assistance to the rhib, which was taking on water.

"The HM Coastguard search-and-rescue helicopter from Lydd, RNLI lifeboats from Dungeness and Littlestone, and coastguard rescue teams from Dungeness and Folkestone were sent.

"The rhib was located at 2am and the incident handed over to UK Border Force."

Councillor Mary Lawes, Ukip group leader on Shepway District Council, said she was concerned for the security of the region as well as the safety of migrants seeking to cross the Channel in unsafe boats.

She said: "We are not doing enough to control our coastline, the Government has to address border controls, something has to be done to protect these people from harm and our borders."

David Monk, Conservative leader of the local authority, said he believed high levels of surveillance in the English Channel would mean most boats crossing the channel would be identified.

He added: "I am pretty sure our security is good. I cannot recall a previous incident but this should act as a warning to the authorities to be even more vigilant."

The incident comes after 17 suspected Albanian migrants and a British man wanted on suspicion of murder in Spain were detained after a catamaran arrived at Chichester Marina in West Sussex on Tuesday.

The 55-year-old man, who was the subject of a European Arrest Warrant, was also detained on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration while the 17 Albanian men were held on suspicion of entering the UK illegally.

The Albanians have been detained pending Home Office consideration of their cases. Also last month, two Iranian men were found floating in an ill-equipped dinghy in the English Channel.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) recently revealed migrants trying to reach the UK are paying smuggling gangs up to £13,500 for their journey.

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