UK border force intercepts at least 40 migrants off coast

Rescue operation saw planes, helicopters and boats used

Freight trucks come and go at the port of Dover, Kent on February 1, 2020,   Britain on Saturday began an uncertain future outside the European Union, hours after the historic end to its almost half a century of membership was greeted with a mixture of joy and sadness. / AFP / Ben STANSALL
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At least 40 suspected migrants have been stopped off the south coast of England and brought ashore to the port town of Dover.

They were making the perilous journey in across the English Channel from France to Britain in small boats in near-freezing temperatures.

"HM Coastguard is co-ordinating a search and rescue response to a number of incidents off Kent this morning, working with Border Force, Kent Police and other partners,” the UK coastguard has said in a statement.

A number of lifeboats, border force vessels, a helicopter and a fixed wing aircraft were sent to support the operation.

Early on Wednesday an inflatable boat carry five males who presented themselves as Senegalese, Malian and Guinean nationals was intercepted.

At the same time a vessel carrying a group of 21 males who presented themselves as Syrian, Yemeni and Egyptian nationals was also stopped.

The border force continues to deal with other ongoing small boat incidents.

"We are tackling illegal migrant crossings on all fronts with every agency including Border Force, Immigration Enforcement, NCA and policing teams working in tandem with the French and Belgian authorities," Home Office Director for Crime & Enforcement Tony Eastaugh, 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," he added.

One hundred people smugglers were convicted in 2019 in the UK, the Home Office has said. They received a combined 320 years in prison.

Nearly 200 migrants attempted to try and cross the English Channel in a single week last month.

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