Migrant crossings: Newborn baby rescued after nine hours at sea - as man says French police watched them leave

·4-min read

A newborn baby has been rescued by the RNLI after surviving a nine-hour journey across the Channel made by a group of migrants on Saturday.

Sky News witnessed the newborn girl, named Ayyan and wrapped in a blanket, being handed to a police officer on the shore in Dungeness, Kent, after making the potentially treacherous journey.

Asked by Sky News if French police tried to stop them, one man who could speak some English said: "No, they don't say anything." He also said officers watched them leave.

The man also translated for the baby girl's mother, who said Ayyan was doing well and that she too was pleased to have arrived in Britain - prepared to risk her own safety and that of her child to get to England for "the best life".

Ayyan is believed to be between two weeks and a month old.

Although record numbers of migrants have crossed the Channel this summer, Sky News analysis of the last three years of complete Home Office data shows those arriving in small boats are only a small fraction of the number of migrants arriving in the UK each year.

who generally claim asylum - are only a small fraction of the number of migrants arriving in the UK each year.

Sky News correspondent Ivor Bennett said: "There was exhaustion and elation in equal measure.

"After nine hours at sea, their treacherous journey was finally over. Several of the migrants were shivering as they were helped off the lifeboat on to Dungeness's shingle beach.

"Those who did speak said they were from Iraq and Iran, including one man who said it was his "dream" to live here. Some were missing coats and even shoes, a few were soaked.

"The most arresting image of all - a newborn baby wrapped in a blanket. The little girl is just weeks old and yet she has experienced a journey few can comprehend.

"Her mother, almost too weary to speak, told me her name is Ayyan. Why risk her child's life to reach these shores? Because 'England has the best life'."

Sky News later witnessed another boat carrying between 15 and 20 migrants arrive later on Saturday.

It brings the total number of migrants who have been rescued by the RNLI and brought to Dungeness to around 70.

Mr Bennett added: "These people are willing to risk everything because they think this is much better than what they have left behind.

"Most of the people I saw told me they were from Iraq and Iran. They were mostly men on this first boat, some of them without a coat, some of them without shoes, a lot of them soaked and shivering.

"One man who did speak English said it was his dream to come here and that was the overriding, unifying factor of all of these people: all of them were clearly very happy to be here, giving me the thumbs up and smiling."

Sky News filmed dozens of people arriving in the UK on Saturday, as the French interior minister visited Calais to inspect efforts in the fight against illegal immigration in the Channel.

Gerald Darmanin claimed the UK government has not paid the money it promised under its deal to tackle migrants crossing the Channel.

Asked by Sky's Europe correspondent Adam Parsons why so many boats were arriving in Britain despite France receiving money from the government to stop the migrants, Mr Darmanin said: "First off, the British government has not paid, for now, what was promised.

"So, for the moment, there is not a euro that has been paid by the British government following the deal - more or less - that we negotiated with (Home Secretary Priti) Patel.

"The English are people of honour, so I am certain that it is an accounting delay."

The Home Office has said it will raise the footage with French counterparts - after the UK signed a £54m deal with France to increase patrols back in July.

It has described the record rise in migrant crossings to the UK over the Channel this year as "unacceptable".

Locals have expressed anger at "how easy" it is to cross the Channel into the UK as record numbers land on the Kent coast this year.

Since the start of the year, more than 17,000 migrants have reached the UK - double the figure for 2020.

More than 25,000 people have risked death crossing the English Channel on board dinghies, kayaks and other small boats since the beginning of last year, according to PA news agency data.

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