Forty migrants rescued from five boats in English Channel

Migrants were picked up in five separate incidents in the early hours of the morning, with some attempting to make the crossing in dinghies.

Those on board the boats said they were from Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, and at least two children were travelling with the groups.

All the migrants are now in the UK and have undergone medical assessments before being transferred to immigration officials for interview.

The children were taken to social services, the Home Office said.

The Home Office has blamed the crossings on “organised criminal gang activity”.

“We are working closely with the French and law enforcement partners to target these gangs, who exploit vulnerable people and put lives at risk,” a spokesperson said.

It said it had “deployed resources to deal with these incidents”, including sending Border Force cutters and coast patrol vessels to the stricken boats.

The number of people trying to cross the English Channel in small and often dangerous journeys has risen in recent months, with 86 people picked up in a two-week period in November.

The rise in channel crossings corresponds with tighter border checks in France and crackdowns on migrant camps that have made it more difficult to reach the UK by other means.

The Home Office says its work with French authorities and “enhanced security measures” have seen a 50% reduction in what it calls “clandestine detections” in the UK since 2015.

Since April, immigration enforcement has disrupted 43 organised crime groups involved in people smuggling. In November, two men were jailed for eight years each for smuggling people into the UK in small boats.

Dover MP Charlie Elphicke said it was “deeply concerning” that so many migrants had attempted to enter Britain.

“This is incredibly hazardous in the middle of winter – especially for children,” he said.

“It is vital that the British and French authorities find and stop the traffickers behind these crossings before there is a tragedy in the English Channel.”

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