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More resources are needed to stop migrants trying to reach the UK on makeshift boats, or lives will be lost, an ex-border force inspector has said.

A group of 20 people - including 18 Albanian migrants and two children - were rescued from an inflatable boat off the coast of Kent on Sunday.

Two Britons are among those being held.

John Vine, ex-chief inspector of borders and immigration, said there was an "equal chance" of migrants drowning in the Channel as in the Mediterranean.

The UK coastguard said it was called just before midnight on Saturday to an incident off the coastal village of Dymchurch, which is just 20 miles from France.

Those on board the boat reportedly alerted their families in Calais after their inflatable boat started taking in water.

Migrants could die crossing Channel, ex-chief inspector warns


BBC News
30 May 2016


A boat linked to the investigation was driven away from Dymchurch beach

More resources are needed to stop migrants trying to reach the UK on makeshift boats, or lives will be lost, an ex-border force inspector has said.

A group of 20 people - including 18 Albanian migrants and two children - were rescued from an inflatable boat off the coast of Kent on Sunday.

Two Britons are among those being held.

John Vine, ex-chief inspector of borders and immigration, said there was an "equal chance" of migrants drowning in the Channel as in the Mediterranean.

The UK coastguard said it was called just before midnight on Saturday to an incident off the coastal village of Dymchurch, which is just 20 miles from France.

Those on board the boat reportedly alerted their families in Calais after their inflatable boat started taking in water.

A Home Office spokesman confirmed a woman and two children were among those on the inflatable boat. He said a second vessel - linked to the incident - was also discovered on the beach at Dymchurch.

'Not doing enough'

Concerns have since been raised that sea tragedies, similar to those seen on the voyage to Turkey, Greece or Italy, could occur in the Channel.

Mr Vine, who was chief inspector until 2014, said: "We have seen the tragedies that have occurred in the Mediterranean.

"I am not a nautical person but I would have thought crossing the Channel - with all the hazards in terms of cross-Channel traffic as well as the weather and the sea conditions - are going to mean there is an equal chance of people losing their lives unless this is stopped."

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the threat of migrants coming to the UK on ships "wasn't a major priority" when he raised concerns with the government in the past.

"In the context of small ports, we just don't know the extent of this.

"Clearly if this is now the start of something new, then really that needs to be reassessed and resources need to be put in," he added.

Border Force operates a fleet of five cutters.

One is currently deployed in the Aegean Sea, between Greece and Turkey. There are four stationed in UK waters with three in operation at any one time, the Home Office said.

In February 2015, Border Force decided to "furlough" two of the five cutters, meaning two would left in dock, with skeleton maintenance staff - saving £3.5m.


Dymchurch is just 20 miles from France and there are fears more migrants could attempt the crossing

Lord West, the former head of the Royal Navy, told the Daily Mail it was a "complete mess" that three Border Force vessels had been left to patrol the UK's coastline.

"We are taking a calculated risk with our own territorial waters.

"Already we have seen these illegal immigrants and I don't believe there aren't clever traffickers using the smaller ports to send them and I'm sure terrorists are aware of the route too."

However, Damian Collins, MP for Folkestone and Hythe, said it was "too early to say whether this is a new trend".

He told BBC Radio 5 live it was wrong to say the UK's coastline was "undefended", saying the Channel was "probably the most monitored stretch of water in the world".

Helicopter rescue

Councillor Mary Lawes, UKIP group leader on Shepway District Council, said she was concerned for the security of the region as well as the safety of migrants seeking to cross the Channel in unsafe boats.

She said: "We are not doing enough to control our coastline, the government has to address border controls, something has to be done to protect these people from harm and our borders."

David Monk, Conservative leader of the local authority, said he believed high levels of surveillance in the English Channel would mean most boats crossing the Channel would be identified.

He said: "I am pretty sure our security is good.

"I cannot recall a previous incident but this should act as a warning to the authorities to be even more vigilant."




The UK coastguard said it was called just before midnight on Saturday.

A helicopter from nearby Lydd and two lifeboats with coastguard rescue teams from Dungeness and Folkestone began the search.

About two hours later, at 02:00 BST on Sunday, a rigid-hulled inflatable boat, known as a "rhib", with 20 people on board was found.

After being rescued, the group were handed over to the UK Border Force and taken to Dover.

The incident comes after 17 men, thought to be Albanian migrants, were detained when a catamaran arrived at Chichester Marina in West Sussex on Tuesday, along with a 55-year-old British man wanted on suspicion of murder in Spain.

The Briton, who was the subject of a European Arrest Warrant, was detained on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration and the 17 men were held on suspicion of entering the UK illegally.

Also last month, two Iranian men were found floating in a dinghy in the English Channel.

Migrants could die crossing Channel, ex-chief inspector warns - BBC News
Last edited by Blackleaf; May 30th, 2016 at 05:08 AM..