38 illegal immigrants rescued in English Channel after boat sinks

Thirty-eight illegal immigrants have been rescued from the English Channel after their boat sank off the coast of south-east England, the UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced on September 15.

The illegal immigrants were trying to reach the UK coast in a dinghy, which deflated in UK waters around 6.17am local time. The Coastguard has launched a search and rescue operation alongside the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), Royal Navy, Border Force and Police.

At around 7:07 a.m., the 38 illegal immigrants had been rescued. They were all checked, found in safe and stable condition, and were taken to Dover for treatment, the MoD said.

It was not the only small boat carrying illegal immigrants to the UK on September 15. Large groups of people were then pictured being brought to Dungeness on two lifeboats.

While no crossings were recorded on September 14, some 538 made the trip in 11 boats a day earlier, bringing the provisional total for the year to 29,099. That already exceeds the 28,526 who made the move in 2021.

Dangerous journeys

The number of illegal crossings has soared in recent years, with 28,526 people detected in 2021, compared to 8,466 in 2020, 1,843 in 2019 and 299 in 2018, according to figures from the Ministry of the Interior.

A record 1,295 illegal immigrants made the trip on August 22, the highest figure for a single day since the current record-keeping system began in 2018.

Crossings can be deadly. On November 4, 2021, 27 illegal immigrants, including 17 men, seven women and three children, died when their boat sank in the English Channel.

Last month, British officials said it was remarkable there had been no serious incidents, such as drownings, this year, with the average number of people per boat rising to 44 from 28 in 2021.

‘Touristic guide’

Almost all of the dinghies and rigid inflatable boats have been intercepted by the Navy, RNLI or other UK law enforcement vessels, who then take the migrants ashore and hand them over to immigration authorities. This approach has been widely criticized.

At a Defense Select Committee meeting in the House of Commons on July 12, Labor MP John Spellar said the Royal Navy did not stop illegal immigrants from entering the UK, but simply escorted them in the ports of Kent.

He suggested the Royal Navy seemed to act as a “tourist guide” for illegal immigrants.

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey dismissed the claim, insisting he believed the Royal Navy had “taken control” of the English Channel.

Last month two reports criticized the Home Office for its ‘ineffective’ response to the challenge of illegal immigration in the English Channel. One said the Border Force’s approach to preventing travel was “ineffective and possibly counterproductive”, while the other said the initial processing of those who arrived was “ineffective and ineffective”.

Chris Summers, Lily Zhou and PA Media contributed to this report.