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Migrants intercepted in English Channel by UK Border Force, Dover MP calls for 'urgent surveillance'

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Migrants intercepted in English Channel by UK Border Force, Dover MP calls for 'urgent surveillance'
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Brian Burnell
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Thirty-four migrants travelling on a small vessel were intercepted in the English Channel by the UK Border Force and brought to the Port of Dover early Monday morning.

At around 6.30am, the UK Border Force was alerted to a small boat travelling through the English Channel and deployed two Border Force cutters and a coastal patrol vessel (CPV) to intercept it.

Those on board were transferred to a Border Force cutter, the HMC Vigilant.

A Home Office spokesperson told Euronews the small boat contained men, women and children, and that the group was transferred to immigration officials to be interviewed.

The Home Office would not comment on the migrants' nationality.

“Since the Home Secretary declared a major incident in December we have tripled the number of cutters operating in the Channel, agreed a joint action plan with France and increased activity out of the Joint Coordination and Information Centre in Calais,” said a Home Office spokesperson.

The spokesperson also told Euronews three men were arrested by Immigration Enforcement Criminal and Financial Investigation (CFI) officers on suspicion of immigration offences.

“We urgently need air surveillance day and night along the French coast"

Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke told Euronews that this incident underlines the shocking lengths ruthless people traffickers will go to in order to break people into Britain.

“We urgently need air surveillance day and night along the French coast — to catch the traffickers long before they reach Dover," said Elphicke.

"If we fail to stop people attempting extremely dangerous crossings in overcrowded and unseaworthy small craft, we risk a tragedy in the English Channel.”

REUTERS/Toby Melville
A ferry is seen manoeuvring at dusk at the Port of Dover, Britain, February 14, 2019.REUTERS/Toby Melville

Home Office reaction to migrant crossings

The Home Office told Euronews the number of individuals attempting to cross the Channel decreased from around 250 in December to around 90 in January.

Around half of the January attempts were intercepted by partners in France before they could make it to British waters.

The Home Office says progress regarding border security was made on January 24, when Home Secretary Sajid Javid and French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner met in Westminster and agreed on a new joint action plan to strengthen efforts against migrant activity in the English Channel.

This joint co-operation followed a rise in the number of migrants attempting to cross the dangerous shipping lane in small boats. It will see more than £6 million (€6.8 million) invested in new security equipment.

The plan, which is implemented immediately, also accounts for additional security cameras strategically placed at French ports and in areas where migrants may attempt to embark boats bound for the UK.

It will feed live CCTV footage into the UK-France Coordination and Information Centre in Calais, which is staffed by both British and French agencies.

"It is vital we continue to work closely with our French partners to stop vulnerable migrants making these treacherous crossings and tackle the people smugglers who are putting their lives in danger," Javid said following the agreement with France.