Kent

Channel migrants: Dinghy carrying 18 people intercepted

Border Force patrol boat Image copyright Leon Neal
Image caption A Border Force cutter and coastal patrol vessel were deployed

A group of 18 migrants were intercepted off the Kent coast as they crossed the Channel in a dinghy.

The boat's occupants were brought to Dover after two Border Force vessels were deployed at about 08:15 BST.

The men, women and children onboard "presented themselves as Iraqi and Iranian", the Home Office said.

At least 634 people, many of them Iranian, have crossed the Channel in small boats since 3 November 2018, with 132 arriving this month alone.

In updated migration figures, the Home Office said there had been a "notable increase" in asylum applications from Iranian nationals.

There was a 56% increase in Iranians seeking asylum - rising from 1,393 to 3,876 - in the 12 months to March, the figures showed.

There were also "notable increases" in asylum applications from Albania - up 69% from 1,010 to 2,477 - and Eritrea, which rose from 1,244 to 2,427.

Overall, applications rose by 18% compared to the previous 12 months, but "remained below the level seen in the year ending March 2016 during the European migration crisis".

The Home Office said "those in need of protection should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach," adding that since January "more than 30 people who arrived illegally in the UK in small boats have been returned to Europe".

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

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