THE BBC has come under fire for a "voyeuristic and distasteful" report of migrants crossing the English Channel.

The BBC filmed around 20 migrants who were spotted halfway across the English Channel on a rubber dinghy at around 6.20am on Monday morning.

They were packed together on board the blue and grey boat, which was being powered across the Dover Strait by a single outboard engine.

The dinghy was visibly low in the water as they sat huddled together wearing orange lifejackets.

Reporter Simon Jones, who was at the scene, told viewers: "You can see why it's dangerous today because the sea is pretty choppy and then we came across this boat around half an hour ago, just spotted it on the horizon."

The camera then zooms into the migrants and one is seen constantly bailing out water from the floor of the dinghy using a plastic container.

"We have seen them actually trying to get water out the boat," Jones continued. "They are doing that at the moment. They are using a plastic container to try to bail out the boat. Obviously it's pretty overloaded."

As choppy waters pushed the vessel up and down, Jones said: "They are wearing life jackets but it is pretty dangerous the number of people on board that boat."

When asked if they were all right, the migrants shouted back that they were OK, and said they were from Syria.

Jones added: "They say they're from Syria. They say they're OK. I can see there are some women on board. Majority men."

He then asks where the migrants are going, saying: "Their destination is Dover obviously so at the moment they're motoring through the channel. At the moment the boat seems to be safe, the engine seems to be going. When we were out on the Channel on Friday, the boat actually got very close to the white cliffs before it actually broke down. At the moment, pretty choppy out there, they are bailing the boat out from time to time but they seem to be safe at the moment. Obviously, the coastguard has been alerted and they will be on their way.

"This is a sight that is increasingly common in the Channel. We heard from the coastguard that a boat had set out early this morning but no one was quite sure where it was ... but then suddenly we spotted it. You can spot them from the lifejackets, the colour of the lifejackets makes it clear in the distance.

He concluded: "In the moment, this boat is heading towards Dover, so we'll shadow it and see how this situation develops."

The report received severe criticism on social media.

SNP MP and former BBC journalist John Nicolson said he wouldn't have presented such a "voyeuristic and distasteful" report.

He tweeted: "I presented @BBCBreakfast. This is voyeuristic and distasteful. Had I been presenting I'd have argued strenuously against this sequence as broadcast. Who are these people? What is their story? Why are they fleeing? They're being used as a Farage-esque backdrop."

Holyrood Magazine journalist Liam Kirkaldy said: "This is horrific. Surprised he didn't try to climb in there with them. Do some vox pops."

Journalist and author James Felton described it as "dystopian" while former Labour MP Paul Sweeney said it is "perverse voyeurism".

Tom Carr said: "This is just bizarre... Am I the only one who is watching this as if it's someone presenting some perverse, dark reality TV show?"

Others said the BBC should be helping the migrants.

More than 4000 migrants have now reached the UK so far this year, making the dangerous crossing across the world’s busiest shipping lane.

In the last few days alone, at least 597 people successfully managed to reach Britain by boat, and the political discussion around the issue has intensified.

Campaigners have accused Boris Johnson of using “inflammatory” soundbites as he described the migrants’ Channel crossings as a “very bad and stupid and dangerous and criminal thing to do”.