WHITE CLIFFS: More Iranians are making the treacherous crossing this month
AT LEAST 93 suspected Iranians have entered the UK illegally this month after crossing the English Channel on small dinghies.
The latest came today when two boats each carrying seven people were rescued near Dover in Kent.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “At around 1.30am today Border Force deployed a coastal patrol vessel and intercepted a dinghy off the Kent Coast. with seven people on board.
“The dinghy and those on board were escorted into Dover were they were met by Border Force officers and Port of Dover police.
“The group consisted of six men and one woman, all of whom presented themselves as Iranian. They have been transferred to immigration officials for interview.”
Then at 8am a second boat was discovered containing seven men, who also said they were Iranian.
GROUNDED: Small dinghies like this one found earlier this year are being used
Since November 3 a further 79 people have been stopped in around nine boats, including a suspected stolen French fishing boat on November 13 which entered the Port of Dover with 14 men and three children on board.
The number of asylum applications from Iranians in the UK has been steadily growing in recent years according to Home Office figures.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) says organised crime gangs are behind much of these small boat people smuggling operations.
An NCA spokesman said: "The use of small maritime vessels by organised crime groups to facilitate illegal immigration is a threat that the NCA and our law enforcement partners, both in the UK and France, are well aware of and determined to disrupt.
"While the threat is not new, we have seen a number of attempts to reach the UK in this way in recent weeks.
RISK: Seven or eight people have been found clinging onto the inflatable boats
“We have been clear before that this is in the main fuelled by organised criminality.
"Gathering intelligence and the evidence required to prosecute these networks can take time, but this is a priority for both us and our partners and we have successfully disrupted the crime groups doing this in the past.
“Crossing the Channel in this way is obviously highly dangerous. It demonstrates the lack of regard for human life that these criminal networks have, but also their willingness to exploit the desperation of others.
“But while these attempts are high profile and high risk, the numerical threat posed by organised criminals trying to smuggle people into the UK remains largest at south coast ports rather than through the use of small maritime vessels.”