More than 30 migrants picked up by UK Border Force after crossing English Channel in boats

A Border Force cutter in the Channel Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA

A total of 36 suspected illegal immigrants have been intercepted in the English Channel by the Border Force as they attempted to reach the UK.

The Coastguard assisted the border officers in bringing the occupants of three boats to safety off the Kent coast during Monday morning.

In the first incident, a Border Force cutter was scrambled in the early hours to intercept a small boat.

A group of 11 men on board, who said they were Iranian and Iraqi, were brought on to the Border Force vessel and brought to Dover where they were medically assessed and transferred to immigration officials for interview.

In the second incident, a second small boat was found with 15 people on board - made up of adult men and women and children, who said they were Iraqi and were brought to Dungeness by the RNLI before being handed over to immigration officials.

A short while later, the Border Force intercepted a third boat with nine men and one woman on board, who said they were Iranian, and were brought to Dover.

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

"Since the Home Secretary declared a major incident in December, two cutters have returned to UK waters from overseas operations, we have agreed a joint action plan with France and increased activity out of the Joint Coordination and Information Centre in Calais."

A Coastguard spokesman said: "HM Coastguard is committed to safeguarding life around the seas and coastal areas of this country.

"We are 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.

"We assisted Border Force with three incidents off the Kent coast this morning (22 April)."