Britain’s Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said Thursday that a spike in migrants crossing the English Channel by boat was “deeply concerning” after dozens of people were rescued overnight.
British border officials found 23 Iranians in three locations in Kent on England’s southeast coast early Thursday, hours after French maritime authorities intercepted 11 migrants in a small boat near Sangatte.
“The number of incidents over recent days is deeply concerning,” said Nokes.
“Some of this is clearly facilitated by organized crime groups while other attempts appear to be opportunistic.”
Nine Iranians, including three children, were the first to be found early Thursday on a beach near the Kent port town of Folkstone, after sailing from northern France in a 13-foot (four-meter) inflatable boat.
Matt Crittenden, of the Littlestone-on-Sea lifeboat station, told AFP its search and rescue helicopter had spotted them and alerted police.
“We realized they were safe and sound, and the police took over,” he said.
Britain’s interior ministry said each migrant had been given medical assessments.
“All of the adults have been transferred to immigration officials for interview and the three minors have been transferred to the care of social services,” it added.
Three English Channel 'migrants' brought ashore https://t.co/jGoO4LDrqd
— BBC News England (@BBCEngland) December 26, 2018
The ministry said two more boats were discovered at around 8:30 a.m., both near the port of Dover, carrying 14 Iranian males.
It said they had also all received medical checkups and been taken for immigration interviews.
Why This Matters
Authorities on both sides of the Channel are worried about the sharp increase in the number of migrants trying to reach Britain by sea.
Attempts to cross the Channel – one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes – have multiplied since October, with a particular spike recorded over the Christmas period.
British authorities took in 43 people in English waters on Christmas Day and December 26.
Nokes said officials on both sides of the Channel were coordinating efforts through a joint information center opened in Calais in late November “to tackle criminality at the border.”
More on the Subject
Undocumented migrants living in makeshift camps in northern France have been subjected to an “unprecedented” violation of their basic rights over the past three years, the country’s human rights ombudsman said in a report earlier in December.
Jacques Toubon said that migrants camped out along France’s northern coast and in Paris were “in a state of extreme destitution, deprived of all shelter and preoccupied with trying to fulfill their basic needs: to eat, to drink and to wash.”
In 2015 he had already sounded the alarm over the plight of migrants in the squalid Jungle shantytown at the port city of Calais, which at its peak was home to around 10,000 people hoping to stow away on trucks crossing the Channel to Britain.