UK Border Force Intercepts 74 Migrants Trying to Cross English Channel

CC BY 2.0 / Marcus Meissner / Dover ferry portDover port, England
Dover port, England - Sputnik International
Britain's Border Force intercepted 74 people Saturday, including minors, on eight vessels trying to cross the English Channel into Britain, while two further boats were stopped by French authorities.

Authorities said that a criminal investigation was underway, the Associated Press reported. The nationalities of the migrants were still being determined. Coastguard officials said the incidents stretched along Britain's southeast coast, from the port of Dover to Winchelsea Beach near Hastings, 80 kilometers away.

Germany police. (File) - Sputnik International
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Home Secretary Sajid Javid promised to work with French border authorities to halt the rise in people trafficking across the Channel, which has become more of a concern due to the improving weather allowing smugglers to bring more migrants to the UK from France.

"Those who choose to make this dangerous journey across one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world are putting their lives in grave danger — and I will continue to do all I can to stop them," he said in a statement Saturday night.

Local MP Charlie Elphicke suggested the numbers were unprecedented and demanded action.

"This crisis was meant to have been dealt with at Christmas, yet numbers continue to rise," he wrote on Twitter. "The Home Office needs to get a grip on this crisis."

In December last year, Javid declared a rise in migrant crossings to be a "major incident." On Saturday he noted that since then, two cutters have returned to UK waters from overseas and he has agreed upon a joint action plan to halt people smuggling with his French counterparts. Officials have blamed the influx on smuggling gangs.

READ MORE: 'Record Number' of Migrant Boats Seen Off Coast of Kent, UK (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

"It is an established principle that those in need of protection should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach and since January, more than 30 people who arrived illegally in the UK in small boats have been returned to Europe," Javid said. "We will continue to seek to return anyone who has entered the UK illegally."

Overall, migration into Europe is down substantially since over 1 million asylum-seekers and migrants came to the continent in 2015. However, according to the International Organization for Migration, in 2019 over 21,300 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean Sea into Europe, and at least 519 others have died trying.

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