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Major lifeboat response after migrants spotted floating in the English Channel
10 August 2023, 13:54 | Updated: 10 August 2023, 16:54
Four lifeboats from Kent have been called by HM Coastguard to an incident in the Channel, the RNLI has said.
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Lifeboats from Dover, Ramsgate and Dungeness, along with Littlestone RNLI’s inshore lifeboat, were called to the incident on Thursday morning.
Border Force and the Coastguard rescued 17 individuals from the water who had gone overboard whilst attempting to cross the Channel in small boats.
A statement from the RNLI read: "This morning (Thursday August 10) all-weather RNLI lifeboats from Dover, Ramsgate and Dungeness, along with Littlestone RNLI's inshore lifeboat, were tasked to an incident in the Channel by HM Coastguard.
"On arrival at the scene, some casualties were found to be in the water. All casualties are believed to be accounted for and were brought to safety by the RNLI's volunteer crews."
HM Coastguard said it has been coordinating a search and rescue response to the incident.
"HM Coastguard will continue to safeguard life around the seas and coastal areas of the UK, working with search and rescue resources in the area," they said.
"If a vessel needs search and rescue assistance, HM Coastguard will continue to respond to all those in need."
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The unacceptable number of people risking their lives by making these dangerous crossings is placing an unprecedented strain on our asylum system.
“Our priority is to stop the boats, and our Small Boats Operational Command is working alongside our French partners and other agencies to disrupt the people smugglers.
“The government is going even further through our Illegal Migration Act which will mean that people arriving in the UK illegally are detained and promptly removed to their country of origin or a safe third country.”
It comes as the number of people crossing the English Channel on small boats in the last five-and-a-half years could have passed 100,000 following fresh arrivals of migrants on Thursday.
Analysis of Government figures since current records began on January 1 2018 showed that, as of Tuesday, 99,960 people had arrived in the UK after making the journey.
And RNLI lifeboats were spotted bringing dozens of people to shore on Thursday, meaning it is likely the figure has been reached.
The milestone coincides with the Government’s 'small boats week' intended to focus on stopping the Channel crossings.
The first migrants boarded the Bibby Stockholm barge in Dorset this week, despite facing a series of delays.
However it emerged that some 20 migrants did not board the housing barge after their transfers were "cancelled" by refugee charity lawyers.
Conservative Party deputy chairman Lee Anderson said those unhappy with the Bibby Stockholm should “f*** off back to France”, and refused to apologise for his comments about migrants on Tuesday evening.
Speaking in an interview the MP for Ashfield doubled down on his remarks, as he said: “Like I say: if it’s not good enough, then they should go back to France, in stronger words.”
Justice secretary Alex Chalk defended Mr Anderson’s comments on LBC, saying the MP’s comments contained “a lot of sense”.