Although the numbers involved are a tiny fraction of the traffic across the Mediterranean, there are concerns that so many are putting their lives at risk in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, ITF Seafarers warned.

On just one morning, on 1st June, there were 13 incidents off the Kent coast, with 74 men, women and children rescued by lifeboats from three ports and coastguard rescue teams from a further three.

The numbers attempting the crossing grew in the last three months of 2018, when more than 400 people were detected. A further 140 people were picked up in May.

We are 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,

...said an HM Coastguard spokeswoman.

This comes as an estimated 21,795 people have crossed the Mediterranean only in 2019 -from Asia and Africa to Italy, Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Malta.

A total of 539 are estimated dead and missing in 2019, as of 10 June.