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Another 120 migrants on eight boats stream into Dover in a day

Another 120 migrants streamed into Dover today as people smugglers urge hundreds to make the Channel crossing now before Brexit ‘closes the door’.

Pictures show men wearing masks and lifejackets being brought into the Kent port of Dover on a Border Force speedboat.

The Home Office confirmed Border Force and partner agencies intercepted eight boats while the Coastguard earlier said it was dealing with ‘multiple incidents’.

So far this year, at least 3,510 migrants have made the illegal crossing from France, compared to around 1,850 in 2019.  

Border Force sent out vessels Seeker and Hunter from Dover to deal with the small boats crossing the busiest shipping lane in the world.

One boat intercepted around 11am was carrying a total of 36 people, including 26 males and 10 females.

The suspected migrants were then seen boarding a coach at the port, supervised by officials in yellow vests.

Numbers of small boats making the perilous journey have spiked in recent weeks during favourable weather.

A search and rescue operation was launched off the coast of Kent today in response to ‘multiple incidents’, the coastguard said.

A spokesperson added: ‘We are committed to safeguarding life around the seas and coastal areas of this country.

‘HM Coastguard is only concerned with preservation of life, rescuing those in trouble and bringing them safely back to shore, where they will be handed over to the relevant partner emergency services or authorities.’

Border Force vessels Seeker and Hunter have also been active in the Channel today.

Footage aired on Good Morning Britain today showed a packed boat headed towards the UK.

At one point, one of the migrants aboard was seen bailing out water as the small inflatable boat made its way across the Channel.

On Sunday a former Border Force chief said that a failure by the UK to reach a new agreement with France on how to deal with migrant crossings could lead to numbers reaching ‘crisis’ levels.

Tony Smith said the UK and France need to agree a treaty with a joint patrol whereby migrants picked up in the Channel can be returned to France to have asylum claims considered there.

A Coastguard spokesman earlier said: ‘HM Coastguard is today coordinating search and rescue responses to multiple incidents off Kent, working with Border Force and other partners.’ 

The Home Office said it is ‘urgently working’ and ‘seeking agreement’ with the French Government to take ‘tougher action’, such as stronger enforcement measures, adopting interceptions at sea and the direct return of boats. 

It also confirmed 22 people smugglers have been jailed so far this year, with investigations resulting in 11 arrests last month. 

Chris Philp, the Minister for Immigration Compliance and the Courts, said: ‘France have stopped thousands of migrants this year and made more interceptions today, but the route has not been cut. If the route is cut completely, migrants will have no reason to come to France in the first place.

‘Migrants have no need and no right to leave France which is a safe country with a well-functioning asylum system and attempt to come to the UK by illicit means.

‘We are determined to make this route unviable. We have offered to work with France on safe returns at sea and we will continue work to return anyone who attempts the crossing.

‘We are continuing to go after the heinous criminals and organised crime networks putting people’s lives at risk. Twenty-two people smugglers have been jailed this year and two more were charged last weekend.’

The latest life-risking Channel crossings – the second of this month – follow a record-breaking 1,075 refugees who made it to Kent in July. 

And they come after a migrant was airlifted to hospital with hypothermia on Sunday after reaching Britain on a small boat. 

The Sudanese man was picked up off Ramsgate, Kent, at 10.30am after making the perilous 21-mile journey across the Channel with two others.

He was flown to the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford by the Coastguard’s search and rescue helicopter – which plucked him from a lifeboat in the sea. 

Last Thursday, a single-day record of 202 people in 20 boats landed.

It follows the general secretary of the Immigration Service Union, Lucy Moreton, saying earlier this year that people smugglers and traffickers are using Brexit as a ‘driver’ to encourage people to make the crossing.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme in January: ‘One of the drivers, we’re being told, is that people smugglers and traffickers are telling these folk that after Brexit Britain will close in some way. 

‘In practice, of course, this is illegal anyway, and it will be as illegal on 31 January as it is on 1 February. Brexit doesn’t make a difference, but we do know that the criminals are using this to try to drive more business.’ 

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