HMS Mersey patrols the Strait of Dover

Dozens of migrants trying to cross the English Channel in small boats have been picked up by Border Force and RNLI vessels.

A total of 36 people were discovered on three different small craft between the coasts of the UK and France.

The first boat was intercepted in the early hours of the morning by a Border Force cutter after an alert was raised.

A group of 11 adult males, who presented themselves as Iranian and Iraqi were taken to Dover before being transferred to immigration officials for interview.

A second group, 15 men, women and children who presented themselves as Iraqi, were picked up by an RNLI boat before being taken to Dungeness and transferred to immigration officials.

Shortly after, a third group of nine adult men and one adult woman, who presented as Iranian, were intercepted and taken to Dover by a Border Force coastal patrol vessel.

Scores of migrants have attempted to cross the Channel in periods of good weather since last November when a spike began.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid declared a “major incident” in late December.

Most of those who have been picked up crossing one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes have presented themselves as Iranian and Iraqi.

The South East of England has been enjoying particularly fine weather for the time of year over the last few days, with relatively light winds in the Channel area.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Anyone crossing the Channel in a small boat is taking a huge risk with their life and the lives of their children.

“Since the Home Secretary declared a major incident in December, two cutters have returned to UK waters from overseas operations, we have agreed a joint action plan with France and increased activity out of the Joint Coordination and Information Centre in Calais.

“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 20 people who arrived illegally in the UK in small boats have been returned to Europe.”

A Coastguard spokesman said: “HM Coastguard is 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.

“We assisted Border Force with three incidents off the Kent coast this morning (22 April).”

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