The French have been caught via some extraordinary photographic evidence of assisting a migrant dinghy to cross the Channel into UK waters.
The incident was witnessed yesterday morning from a fishing boat about 12 miles from Folkestone near the French-British sea border. The image captures the moment a French rigid inflatable boat, carrying French two border guards, was dispatched from a larger naval vessel to check on the migrants.
Instead of the French officials trying to get the overloaded migrant boat to turn back, they allowed the illegal crossing to continue into British waters.
Most of the 16 on board the little inflatable were understood to be Afghan nationals, including two children and two women. A passenger on the fishing boat said they called UK Border Force just after 7.45am because it looked as if the overloaded vessel was about to sink. The migrants were using plastic bottles to it bail out.
The Border Force cutter Hunter later collected the migrants inside British waters before bringing them back to Dover.
on Tuesday 151 migrants made it to British shores on 11 boats
A witness on the fishing boat said: ‘We thought the French guards on the RIB were going to take them back, but they continued escorting them down the north-east lane of the Channel and into British waters. They pretty much just dumped them there. We called the Border Force because it looked like they were going to sink. It was very, very choppy and windy.’
Tory MP Tim Loughton said: ‘This is further evidence the French are happy to provide an escort service to people illegally trying to get into Britain rather than turn them round.’
Although it was well known that the French were escorting boats into British waters, this is a major piece of evidence to see the French escorting a dangerously overloaded boat. It was unlikely this vessel would have made the entire journey, yet the French authorities still allowed it to continue futher into the Channel and did not intervene or get it to turn back. They were on hand should the vessel have sunk, but otherwise were happy to allow the migrants to put themselves in danger.
Natalie Elphicke, the MP for Dover, said ‘Safety at sea starts with stopping small boats leaving French shores in the first place. They must be turned around at the earliest opportunity, closer to land.’
This is clear evidence that the French are not turning these craft around at all – not just at the first opportunity.