Surge in migrants trying to cross Channel despite near-freezing temperatures

Search and rescue operations continue after a surge in migrants trying to cross the English Channel on Thursday.

Despite near-freezing air temperatures at Dover and repeated warnings of the dangers, at least 26 migrants have attempted to reach the UK – a figure that is expected to rise.

Earlier on Thursday, witnesses saw young children being rescued from the Channel after several dinghies were believed to have been intercepted by UK authorities.

The migrant activity prompted a call for a “fresh approach” to the situation from Dover MP Natalie Elphicke, comments that were criticised by a charity.

Border Force, the RNLI and HM Coastguard have been in action on Thursday and two boat interceptions have so far been confirmed by the Home Office.

In one incident, at around 2.15am, a Border Force vessel intercepted an inflatable rib boat carrying five men.

The males presented themselves as Senegalese, Malian and Guinean nationals.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
Migrants are brought ashore on an upper deck of the Border Force vessel Searcher in Dover (Gareth Fuller/PA)

In the second incident, also at around 2.15am, a Border Force vessel intercepted a small boat carrying a group of 21 males who presented themselves as Syrian, Yemeni and Egyptian nationals.

All those found were taken to Dover, where they were medically assessed, before being transferred to immigration officials to be interviewed.

Temperatures at the Port of Dover this morning were as low as 2C.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
A lifeboat approaches a small craft thought to be carrying migrants off the Kent coast (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Local MP Ms Elphicke said a “fresh approach” is needed and migrants should be returned to France regardless of where they are intercepted.

She said: “It is essential that we put a stop to this appalling trafficking trade and protect vulnerable people from making these dangerous crossings.

“A fresh approach is needed so wherever boats are picked up in the English Channel they are returned safely and securely to France.”

Her comments were criticised by Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action.

She told the PA news agency: “Turning away asylum seekers on our coastline would do nothing to deter traffickers while further risking the lives of those desperate enough to turn to them.

“The best way of ensuring the security of those seeking sanctuary in the UK is to offer safe and legal routes.”

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