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'Distressed' asylum seekers rescued off Dover coast by fishing day-trippers

The drama unfolded off the coast of Dover. Photo: PA Archive/PA Images

A group of "distressed" asylum seekers have been rescued by a charter fishing boat off the coast of Dover after their inflatable dinghy got into trouble.

Captain of the boat Matt Coker, 37, said he spotted the small boat, which was half full of water, three miles off the Goodwin Sands in Kent as he took a group out on a day trip at around 10.30am on Saturday.

The three “distressed” men and one woman on board tied a red T-shirt to an oar as they tried to attract his attention before making a leap for the bigger vessel, he said.

The Royal Charlotte skipper told how his fishing party pulled them aboard and administered first aid before calling the Coastguard.

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“We were on our way out on a fishing trip and we noticed a small, little tiny dinghy on the horizon and I tried to look with the binoculars and I could see people in it and didn’t think much of it,” he told the Press Association.

“But as we got closer… they see us and suddenly started waving.

“I had another look with the binoculars and I could see they were actually waving the oars and they tied a red T-shirt on to an oar and were waving that.

“So then I motored over to see who it might be, because they were clearly in distress, but in the back of my mind I thought this could actually be asylum seekers or it could be someone who’s drifted off the beach.

“As I got over to them I could see they were clearly in distress and the boat was half full of water, so they sort of made a leap for the boat as we got near.

“Luckily I had 12 passengers on and they grabbed hold of them and we got them aboard pretty quick and then we got the boat aboard, which was a little inflatable dinghy.

“They were in distress. They didn’t speak any English but they kept saying ‘Iran’ because I was asking where they had come from and if they were okay.”

Border Force took the group ashore. Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA

Mr Coker said he initiated first aid and tried to look after them, while they waited for Border Force to arrive.

“They boarded the boat, interviewed them and took them away,” he added.

A Home Office spokesman confirmed: “On Saturday morning Border Force received a call from the UK Coastguard regarding a small inflatable boat off the coast of Dover.

“A coastal patrol vessel was deployed and the four people on board have been brought to Dover, where they will be processed in line with the immigration rules.”