Dozens of suspected migrants rescued off southern coast of England

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By Luke Hurst
FILE: A Borderforce vessel
FILE: A Borderforce vessel   -  Copyright  Kelvin Davies   -   Hurst, Luke

Dozens of suspected migrants have been brought to shore in the UK after a rescue operation was conducted off southern England on Friday morning.

The Home Office said the UK’s Borderforce had dealt with a number of incidents in the English Channel, with a cutter and coastal patrol vehicle sent to intercept four small boats.

A spokesperson said 30 people, including one woman and two minors, were medically assessed before being transferred to immigration officials.

They are understood to be Iranian and Afghan nationals.

Borderforce said it was alerted to the first incident at 4 am and the last one at 7 am.

The Coastguard said it "has been coordinating a search and rescue response to a number of incidents off Kent, working with Border Force, Kent Police and other partners".

An eyewitness told news website Kent Online she saw the people being brought to shore at Dover's Western Dock, adding some had been in canoes.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Anyone crossing the Channel in a small boat is taking a huge risk with their life and the lives of their children.

“Since December, two cutters have returned to UK waters from overseas operations, we have agreed on 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 60 people who arrived illegally in the UK in small boats have been returned to Europe.”