Ninth migrant vessel in two weeks rescued off Kent coast
More than 80 Iranian nationals have been taken into custody amid surge in sea crossings
Fourteen people believed to be Iranian migrants have been rescued from two boats near Dover, the latest in a series of such incidents off the Kent coat.
Border Force coastal patrol boats escorted a dinghy carrying seven people into the Port of Dover in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Hours later, a second vessel was rescued after straying into the path of cross-Channel ferries.
Ferry passengers reported that the migrants were “frantically waving, shouting and blowing whistles as the choppy sea battered the boat”, says Sky News.
One witness said the situation had been “incredibly dangerous” and “heartbreaking to watch”.
The people recovered from the boats - 13 men and one woman - have been transferred into the custody of immigration officials, on suspicion of attempting to enter the UK illegally.
Yesterday’s rescues brings the total number of migrant vessels intercepted off the Kent coast in the last fortnight to nine. More than 80 people, most of them claiming to come from Iran, have been transferred into the custody of immigration officials.
On 14 November, three vessels carrying 22 men, one woman and a toddler were intercepted within a matter of hours near Dover and Ramsgate.
Four days later, nine Iranian nationals were rescued after attempting to climb a rocky stretch of coastline near Folkestone.
Bridget Chapman from Kent Refugee Action Network, told regional news site KentOnline that the charity was unsure as to the reason for the recent spike in arrivals, but said that colder weather could be a motivating factor.
“Winter is coming and people feel that they have to do it now,” she said.
However, the National Crime Agency head of operations, Chris Hogben, told the BBC that the push towards increasingly dangerous entry attempts was probably down to human traffickers, rather than the migrants themselves.
“We don't believe that necessarily this is just the work of desperate migrants who are trying to get over to the UK under their own steam,” he said.
“We believe this is yet another example of organised criminals using more and more desperate, more and more dangerous, methods of trying to smuggle people into the UK.”