More migrants head for UK as council boss denies asylum seekers are ‘demonised’

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More migrants have tried to reach Britain by boat on Thursday amid a recent surge in crossing attempts.

A search and rescue operation has been under way off the UK coast as the coastguard and partners respond to “a number of incidents”.

In French waters four migrants were rescued after getting into difficulty in a boat off the coast of Sangatte near Calais.

A young boy is carried by a Border Force officer as a group of people thought to be migrants are brought into Dover, Kent, following a number of small boat incidents in The Channel earlier this week (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Meanwhile, the leader of Kent County Council, which takes in large numbers of unaccompanied migrant children, has hit out at suggestions young asylum seekers are being “demonised”.

HM Coastguard confirmed that it has coordinated search and rescue responses to “a number of incidents” off the coast of Kent.

Border Force cutter Searcher has also been active, as well as the agency’s coastal patrol vessel Speedwell.

A coastguard spokesperson said: “We are committed to safeguarding life around the seas and coastal areas of this country.

“HM Coastguard is 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.”

Numbers of migrants risking their lives to cross the English Channel have surged in the first seven months of 2020.

There has also been a visible spike in crossings in the last week as weather conditions have been good in the Dover Strait.

More than 3,000 migrants have now made it to the UK this year via the Channel, analysis from the PA news agency shows.

Among them are believed to be large numbers of children, many of whom are unaccompanied and are taken into the care of children’s services in Kent.

Speaking on BBC Radio Kent’s Breakfast programme this morning, Kent County Council leader Roger Gough was asked whether young asylum seekers are being “demonised” by local authorities and communities.

He responded: “No, absolutely not.

“We have rightly been highlighting the fact that this is presenting major issues for Kent in terms of both the financial pressure, the pressure on our children’s services, and have been making that case to Government, but that is absolutely not about demonisation.

“If you look at what we have done in dealing with, over a number of years actually, quite significant numbers of new arrivals we have a record there that we are proud of.”

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