A record number of 86 migrants were intercepted in the English Channel on Tuesday as they tried to cross from France to the UK in small boats. It was the highest known number of migrants to have attempted the crossing at the same time.
The Home Office said that a total of five crossings took place within hours of each other on Tuesday morning. Border authorities first intercepted two vessels in the morning, one with 11 and the other with 12 people on board. The occupants said they were Iranian, Afghan, Pakistani and Filipino nationals.
Later in the morning, another 13 people landed in Romney Marsh, telling Border Force officials they were from Iran, Iraq and Turkey. They were followed by nine people who arrived at Pett Level Beach in East Sussex. Their nationalities have not been disclosed.
Soon after, 18 other migrants also managed to reach Romney Marsh. The latter reportedly were Iranian, Iraqi and Vietnamese nationals.
By midday, Border Force officials rushed to intercept another vessel, this time a rigid-hulled inflatable boat, in the Channel. A total of 23 Iranian and Ethiopian nationals were on board.
The migrants were all taken to Dover, where they were medically assessed before being transferred to immigration officials for interviews. Children and women were also among those who survived the crossing.
More investment to combat irregular migration
In recent months, the number of attempted landings on the UK coast has increased significantly, with the previous record being 74 people trying to reach the coast on June 1. Some have said that impending changes to immigration laws in the UK after Brexit might have played a role in the recent rush to reach British shores.
A Home Office spokesman told reporters that crossing the English 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."
More than 1,000 migrants accepted so far in 2019
In August, British Home Secretary Priti Patel and her French counterpart, Christophe Castaner, had agreed to "intensify joint action to reduce small boat crossings after meeting in Paris," the Home Office added.
"I will not let the ruthless gangs of criminal people smugglers continue to put lives in danger - which is why I'm doing everything in my power as Home Secretary to put a stop to these illegal crossings," Patel said.
Since the beginning of the year, the Home Office has
returned more than 70 people who arrived in small boats without authorization.
The number of migrants taken in by UK authorities so far this
year is thought to have passed 1,000.