Sajid Javid has declared the rising number of migrants attempting to cross the English Channel a “major incident”.
The home secretary made the move on Friday following an increase in the numbers of refugees reaching Britain by sea over recent days.
It came after authorities were called to several incidents which saw 40 migrants including two children, some in dinghies, cross the Channel on Christmas Day.
Some seven more migrants arrived on Boxing Day, while a further 23 Iranian migrants reached the south coast of England on Thursday.
Two further attempts saw 12 migrants rescued from the Channel on Friday, with some suffering hypothermia.
And in another incident in French waters, nine migrants were rescued and are now in the UK after the engine of the vessel they were travelling in failed.
The Home Office said on Friday evening that Javid had “taken control of the response to the rising number of migrants attempting to cross the Channel in small boats”.
It said there was “concern that it is only a matter of time before people lose their lives”. Javid will now also seek urgent talks with his French counterpart.
Javid has held a conference call with Border Force officials, Immigration Enforcement and the National Crime Agency.
The department said: “He has insisted the Home Office treat the situation as a major incident and has appointed a Gold Commander and asked for daily updates.
“The home secretary has also asked for an urgent call with his French counterpart over the weekend to reaffirm the continuing need for the UK and France to work closely together to tackle the problem.
“He has also commissioned detailed options from Border Force about the provision of additional vessels in the Channel, including another Border Force cutter, and whether this is likely to encourage more people to try and make the crossing rather than act as a deterrence.”
Human rights group Amnesty UK’s refugee and migrant rights programme director Steve Valdez-Symonds said: “It’s extremely worrying that women, men and children have been compelled to undertake such very dangerous sea crossings in an attempt to find a place of safety and security.
“The Home Secretary needs to understand that we’re in this situation because of the persistent refusal of our Government and others to share responsibility in providing asylum and safe passage to people fleeing desperate situations.
“This has left people with no other option than to take extreme risks to find safety - often at the hands of ruthless or careless smuggling gangs.”