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More migrants picked up crossing Channel in May than ‘major incident’ December

Eight men in a small boat were intercepted by a Border Force cutter on Saturday.

A Border Force patrol vessel arrives back at Dover Marina, following a small boat incident in the English Channel (Gareth Fuller/PA)
A Border Force patrol vessel arrives back at Dover Marina, following a small boat incident in the English Channel (Gareth Fuller/PA)

More migrants have been picked up trying to cross the Channel this month than in December, when a “major incident” was declared.

A Border Force cutter intercepted eight men travelling towards the UK coast in a small boat on Saturday morning.

It brings the total for May so far up to 140, while in December 138 migrants were picked up as they tried to make the crossing, according to analysis by the BBC.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid declared a “major incident”, cut short his family holiday and announced two more Border Force cutters would patrol the Channel at the end of last year.

Factors including fine weather and calm sea conditions can lead to a rise in the number of people trying to make the crossing.

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

“Since the Home Secretary declared a major incident in December, two cutters have returned to UK waters from overseas operations, we have agreed a joint action plan with France and increased activity out of the Joint Coordination and Information Centre in Calais.

“It is an established principle that those in need of protection should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach and since January more than 30 people who arrived illegally in the UK in small boats have been returned to elsewhere in Europe.”

The group of eight men picked up on Saturday were brought to Dover, Kent, were they were found to be in good health before being sent to be interviewed by immigration officials.

Seven said they were Iranian, while the eighth said he was an Afghan.

Earlier this month, Government figures showed a total of 739 migrants planned or attempted to cross the Channel in small boats in the 14 months to the end of February.

The figure included: 135 people who arrived in the UK without being intercepted; 293 who were intercepted and brought to the UK; 144 who were intercepted and returned to France; and 167 linked to aborted departures from France.

PA

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