Several migrant boats attempt Christmas Day crossing to UK

Forty migrants, including two children, have been rescued from boats in five separate incidents on Christmas Day in the English Channel.

Lifeboats and a coastguard helicopter intercepted a boat carrying 12 people and a child off the coast of Deal, Kent, at about 04:30 GMT.

And a girl was one of eight who arrived in Folkestone at about 02:40 GMT.

The Home Office said some of the migrants identified as Iraqis, Iranians and Afghans.

The children will come under the care of social services, officials said.

In other incidents, a Border Force cutter was deployed at 05:50 GMT to the Channel to help a dinghy travelling towards the UK with seven men and a woman onboard.

All of them have undergone a medical assessment and the adults have been transferred to immigration officials to be interviewed.

French maritime officials tweeted two images of the rescue, which appeared to show at least some of the eight people were wearing life jackets.

In French waters within the English Channel, nine migrants were also rescued and are now in the UK after their vessel’s engine failed.

And a lifeboat later spotted a rowing boat with two people on board about eight miles from Dover. It was heading for the UK.C

The 13 people on board the boat off Deal were not thought to be wearing life jackets.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The evidence shows there is organised criminal gang activity behind illegal migration attempts by small boats across the Channel. 

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

HM Coastguard said in a statement: “[We are] committed to safeguarding life around the seas and coastal areas of this country.

“We are only concerned with preservation of life, rescuing those in trouble and bringing them safely back to shore, where they will be handed over to the relevant partner emergency services or authorities.”

As recently as Saturday, a boat containing 16 migrants, including two children, was intercepted by the French authorities as it travelled towards the UK.

It follows numerous attempts through November and December in which people on boats, many of them claiming to be Iranian, were stopped crossing the Channel.