102 migrants intercepted in English Channel, highest ever number in one day

Five people have been convicted in Britain this year for people smuggling

A Border Force boat returns to Dover, Kent, England carrying people thought to be migrants after they were picked-up crossing the English Channel on Friday Feb. 7, 2020. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)
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More than 100 migrants were intercepted on the British Channel on Friday in several incidents, the highest ever number in one day.

Five inflatable boats were stopped and a group were stopped on a Kent beach, amounting to 102 people in total, the UK Home Office said.

A further 30 migrants were detained by French authorities from multiple interceptions of small boats.

The 102 migrants intercepted by British authorities were stopped in six incidents.

In the first incident, at around 1am on Friday morning, a Border Force vessel intercepted a rigid inflatable boat carrying 32 people – 26 males and six females – who said they were from Iran and Iraq.

In the second incident, at around 2.45am, another RIB was intercepted carrying a group of 13 people – 12 men and one woman – who presented themselves as Iranians and Afghans.

In the third incident, at around 3.55am, another RIB was stopped carrying 15 people – 14 males and one female – who claimed they were Iranians.

In the fourth incident, at around 8am, Kent Police detained a group of nine people – eight males and one female –  at Sandgate Beach on the coast of Kent, who said they were from Iran.

In a fifth incident at 10am, a border forces intercepted a RIB that was carrying a group of 10 men, who said they were from Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.

In the sixth incident, at around 10.45am, a Border Force vessel intercepted a final RIB that was carrying a group of 23 people – 16 men and seven women – who presented themselves as Iraqi, Iranian and Syrian citizens.

Seven of the people from the first, third and fourth incidents claimed to be minors and, subject to age assessment, will be transferred into the care of social services, the Home Office said.

Migrant boat crossings from France to the UK are on the rise. Between January 20 and February 5, French authorities intercepted 216 migrants try to make it to Britain.

But the British government has said that it is doing more to stop illegal migration to the UK.

This year, five people have been convicted in Britain for people smuggling, receiving over eight years imprisonment in total, according to the Home Office. One hundred people smugglers were convicted in Britain in 2019. They received a combined 320 years in prison.

“We are tackling illegal migrant crossings on all fronts, right alongside our French and Belgian partners," British security minister Brandon Lewis said.

“We have extra patrols on French beaches, drones, specialist vehicles and detection equipment which has been deployed to stop small boats leaving European shores and we’re supporting security enhancements and increasing intelligence sharing in Belgium and France.

“And it’s working. The majority of migrants who attempt this journey are being stopped, only 25 per cent have made it to the UK this year, compared with 48 per cent last year.”

The English Channel is the world's busiest shipping lane, with 500-600 ships passing through it each day.

The UK is set to be battered by its most intense storm in seven years over the weekend, making the journey across the Channel more perilous for migrants. It is probably the reason why there was such a high number of people arriving on British shores on Friday.

Storm Ciara was due to hit Britain from 6pm GMT on Saturday night to midnight on Sunday, with winds up to 129kph.

The Channel is off the south-east coast of Britain, which is due to bear the brunt of the storm.