Women and children among 86 migrants picked up off UK coast

Women and children are reported to be among 86 migrants picked up off the UK coast on Tuesday - believed to be the biggest number of people intercepted arriving on British shores this year.

Border Force was alerted to several small boats travelling across the Channel, beginning first thing when a cutter was deployed to intercept two vessels - one with 11 people on board, and another with 12 made up of men, women and some reporting to be children.

Migrants were transferred to immigration officials for interview. Credit: ITV News

A further four boats were stopped. At Littlestone in Kent,13 people who had crossed the Channel in a small boat and landed on shore were detained, while a further nine people who arrived at Pett Level Beach, near Winchelsea, were apprehended.

Around midday, Border Force was alerted to a RHIB (rigid-hulled inflatable boat) near Dungeness, Kent, and Border Force vessel Hunter was sent to intercept and bring the boat back to Dover. At around the same time, Border Force was alerted to another RHIB, carrying 23 people, in the English Channel.

The individuals were taken to Dover, where they were medically assessed and found to be well, before being transferred to immigration officials for interview.

Those picked up identified as nationals of Iran, Ethiopia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, the Philippines, Vietnamese.

The news comes after nine migrants were picked up in the Channel on Monday and taken to Dover.

In a statement, the Home Office said: “Crossing the Channel in a small boat is a huge risk. The criminal gangs who perpetuate this are ruthless and do not care about loss of life.

“We are working closely at all levels with the French authorities to tackle this dangerous and illegal activity. In addition, Border Force cutters are patrolling the Channel and we have already deployed equipment including drones, CCTV and night vision goggles.

A British vessel in the Channel. Credit: ITV News

“Last month the Home Secretary and her French counterpart agreed to intensify joint action to tackle small boat crossings in the Channel. This includes drawing up an enhanced action plan to deploy more resources along the French coast to intercept and stop crossings.”

Since January, the Border Force has returned more than 70 people who arrived illegally in small boats to Europe.

Migrants, many of them escaping persecution and war, spend a great deal of money to get to the UK and often at great personal risk.

The numbers of migrants on Tuesday was unusually high, a result of a combination of calm seas and good visibility.

The crossing across the Channel from France has proved deadly on at least two occasions and the coming winter months - and the continued political uncertainty in the UK - will only make the perilous journey even more difficult.