Two charged after migrants are rescued off Kent coast
Helicopter and lifeboat scrambled as boat begins sinking
Two men from Kent have been charged after a boat with 18 Albanians – including a woman and two children – began sinking off Dymchurch.
Mark Stribling, 35 from Farningham and Robert Stilwell, 33, from Dartford, were charged under the Immigration Act 1971.
They were both remanded in custody to appear at Medway Magistrates’ Court on Monday morning and their case has been adjourned to Maidstone Crown Court later this month.
The coastguard was involved in the rescue after the inflatable boat got into difficulties off the coast on Saturday night.
A helicopter was scrambled along with lifeboat and local coastguard crews following reports the rigid-hulled inflatable had been spotted near Dymchurch shortly before midnight and was taking on water.
The 18 Albanian migrants were eventually found at 2am and taken ashore to Dover by border control officers.
All the people on board who were rescued were taken into custody by the UK Border Force and were moved to Dover to be interviewed.
A lifeboatman whose crew was called out to attend the incident has echoed warnings about the dangers of the stretch of water in which the vessel was found listing.
Trevor Bunney, deputy second coxswain at Dungeness Lifeboat Station and its full-time mechanic, has 30 years’ experience of sea rescues. - Trevor Bunney, RNLI
He said: “The Dungeness and Littlestone lifeboats were called out at 11.45pm on Saturday and the boat was found in choppy waters. The Dover Straits is a dangerous stretch of water at the best of times.
“The weather and sea conditions are unpredictable and at this time of year the water is still very cold.”
Mr Bunney warned sea condi- tions in the Dover Straits were much more treacherous than Mediterranean waters, where thousands of migrants have already perished trying to get to Greece or Italy on boats.
His concerns echo those of the president of the French coastguard, Bernard Barron. He said “smugglers have now found a new strategy” after it had become “virtually impossible” for migrants to cross into the UK via the Channel Tunnel or on ferries.
Former Folkestone and Hythe Ukip parliamentary candidate and current South East MEP, Janice Atkinson, accused the government of failing to protect the country’s borders and called for Border Force cutters to return to the UK’s coastline.
She said: “This is the tip of the iceberg. In the past few weeks I have travelled to the migrant hotspots of Greece and Calais.
“Two out of five of our Border Force cutters are in the Aegean Sea.
“How can we guard our own coastline? The Greeks have 240 boats to protect their borders yet they cannot do so.”
‘The Dover Straits is a dangerous stretch of water at the best of times. The weather and sea conditions are unpredictable and at this time of year the water is still very cold.’
The scene at Dymchurch beach after migrants were rescued from a sinking boat
Lifeboatman Trevor Bunney