Kent: Channel Rescue

Nineteen people have been rescued from the English Channel after their inflatable boat began to sink off the Kent coast.

The UK Coastguard received a call for assistance near Dymchurch at 11.40pm on Saturday.

They deployed a search-and-rescue helicopter as well as lifeboats from Dungeness and Littlestone, and coastguard rescue teams from Dungeness and Folkestone.

The inflatable was found more than two hours later.

The people on board had alerted their families in Calais, who then raised the alarm with the French authorities.

A Coastguard statement said: "The UK Coastguard has co-ordinated an incident off Dymchurch to rescue the occupants of a rhib (rigid hull inflatable boat) overnight.

"A call was received at 11.40pm yesterday requesting assistance to the rhib, which was taking on water.

"The HM Coastguard search-and-rescue helicopter from Lydd, RNLI lifeboats from Dungeness and Littlestone, and coastguard rescue teams from Dungeness and Folkestone were sent.

"The rhib, with 19 people on board, was located at 2am and the incident handed over to UK Border Force.''

A Home Office spokesman said: "A total of 19 people were picked up in a search-and-rescue operation.

"They were taken to Dover and are currently being interviewed by Border Force officers.''

Councillor Mary Lawes, Ukip group leader on Shepway District Council, said she was concerned for the security of the region as well as the safety of migrants seeking to cross the Channel in unsafe boats.

She said: "We are not doing enough to control our coastline, the Government has to address border controls, something has to be done to protect these people from harm and our borders.''

David Monk, Conservative leader of the local authority, said he believed high levels of surveillance in the English Channel would mean most boats crossing the channel would be identified.

He added: "I am pretty sure our security is good. I cannot recall a previous incident but this should act as a warning to the authorities to be even more vigilant.''

Last week, 17 suspected Albanian migrants and a British man wanted on suspicion of murder in Spain were detained when a catamaran arrived at Chichester Marina.

The 55-year-old man, who was the subject of a European Arrest Warrant, was also detained on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration while the 17 Albanian men were held on suspicion of entering the UK illegally.

The Albanians have been detained pending Home Office consideration of their cases.

Also last month, two Iranian men were found floating in an ill-equipped dinghy in the English Channel.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) recently revealed migrants trying to reach the UK are paying smuggling gangs up to #13,500 for their journey.

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