Migrants packed into tiny dinghy desperately bail out water as they try to get across Channel

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A series of extraordinary pictures has revealed French border guards escorting a boatload of 16 migrants into British waters and ‘dumping’ them there.

The incident was witnessed yesterday morning from a fishing boat about 12 miles from Folkestone near the French-British sea border.

The images capture the moment a French rigid inflatable boat or RIB, carrying two border guards, was dispatched from a larger naval vessel to check on the migrants. 

But, rather than block them from entering British waters, they allowed the illegal crossing to continue.

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 cut up plastic bottles to it bail out.

Danger zone: The migrants' boat chugs across the world's busiest sea lane

Danger zone: The migrants’ boat chugs across the world’s busiest sea lane

Just checking: The French RIB speeds towards the migrants as they sail through French waters

Just checking: The French RIB speeds towards the migrants as they sail through French waters

Mind how you go: But the French do nothing even though the migrant boat is so low in the choppy waters

Mind how you go: But the French do nothing even though the migrant boat is so low in the choppy waters

Flashpoint: The area of the English Channel where the drama unfolded yesterday morning

Flashpoint: The area of the English Channel where the drama unfolded yesterday morning

The Border Force cutter Hunter later picked them up before bringing them back to Dover.

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, who sits on the parliamentary home affairs committee, 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.’

He said further evidence that the French are not doing enough to ensure migrants make asylum applications in France – rather than undertake dangerous Channel crossings – had come from witnesses working with migrants in France and was given to the select committee yesterday. 

Migrants packed into a tiny dinghy were forced to bail out water after the raft started sinking while they were trying to cross the Channel

Migrants packed into a tiny dinghy were forced to bail out water after the raft started sinking while they were trying to cross the Channel

Running out of time: The migrants, now in English waters, use plastic containers to bail themselves out

Running out of time: The migrants, now in English waters, use plastic containers to bail themselves out

The dinghy was carrying more than a dozen migrants who were trying to reach the UK despite strong winds at sea

The dinghy was carrying more than a dozen migrants who were trying to reach the UK despite strong winds at sea

The boat, carrying men, women and children was intercepted by Border Force officials near the Kent coast

The boat, carrying men, women and children was intercepted by Border Force officials near the Kent coast

A second boat is understood to have landed on the beach at Kingsdown near Deal in Kent

A second boat is understood to have landed on the beach at Kingsdown near Deal in Kent

He added: ‘It is clear that the first priority of the French is to make their problem our problem.’ 

Natalie Elphicke, the MP for Dover, told the Mail: ‘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.’

France’s border forces do stop some boats, but it is often only a small proportion compared to the number that make it across. 

For example, on Tuesday 151 migrants made it to British shores on 11 boats, compared with 36 on three boats stopped and sent back by the French. 

They were seen using plastic bottles to desperately get rid of the water flooding the dinghy

They were seen using plastic bottles to desperately get rid of the water flooding the dinghy

So far in September, 1,464 migrants have arrived, including a single-day record of 416 on 28 boats on September 2

So far in September, 1,464 migrants have arrived, including a single-day record of 416 on 28 boats on September 2

The UK’s Border Force was understood to be dealing with a further three boats arriving last night. It means the total who have successfully made the crossing to British shores this year has exceeded 6,500. A further 168 made it across on Monday. 

Home Secretary Priti Patel has called on the French authorities to turn more boats back.

But French officials are demanding the UK pays £30million to help fund patrols on the beaches of northern France. 

In July Mrs Patel met French counterpart Gérald Darmanin and they agreed to set-up a new Franco-British unit in Calais aimed at curbing crossings. 

Wearing a face-mask, puffer jacket and Adidas tracksuit, a migrant father was photographed walking with his wife and two children along the coastal path at Kingsdown Beach in Deal yesterday

Wearing a face-mask, puffer jacket and Adidas tracksuit, a migrant father was photographed walking with his wife and two children along the coastal path at Kingsdown Beach in Deal yesterday

Home Office officials are said to be considering plans for curbing human rights laws to make it easier to boot out illegal boat arrivals.

Charities warned that trying to make the crossings ‘unviable’, which Mrs Patel has vowed to do, could lead to more deaths. Maddy Allen, of the Help Refugees charity, told the home affairs committee that it could lead to migrants spreading further along the French coast before crossing.

She said: ‘That will directly result in an increase in deaths in the water because you’re crossing a larger body of water.’ 

Around 400 people including families, believed to have crossed the Channel in small boats, are to be housed in temporary accommodation at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, from next week

Around 400 people including families, believed to have crossed the Channel in small boats, are to be housed in temporary accommodation at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, from next week

Ms Allen said she hoped the crossings would stop as it was an ‘incredibly dangerous journey’, adding: ‘As the Home Office and their French counterparts strive to make this route unviable – blocking access to beaches, increasing securitisation, making investments – I think there’s probably a number of options that could play out.

‘People will begin to make these crossings from further afield, we are already seeing this.

‘And it’s going to spread out further up and down the coast. And that will directly result in an increase in deaths in the water because you’re crossing a larger body of water to make that journey.’

Beth Gardiner-Smith, chief executive of Safe Passage UK, said: ‘I would hope they could (make the route unviable). We don’t want to see people crossing by boat.

‘I’m not sure it’s realistic without a serious investment in more support on the ground in northern France, more support to get people into the system and more safe and legal options for people to be able to come to the UK in limited circumstances.

‘So no, I don’t believe it’s realistic at this point.’

The charities told the committee the coronavirus pandemic was likely to have triggered the recent surge in crossings and also warned that child migrants in northern France who have relatives in the UK are being pushed into the hands of trafficking gangs amid delays in processing claims to join their families.

The hearing came as it emerged Channel migrants are to be housed in military barracks while their asylum claims are processed.

Around 400 people including families will be put in temporary accommodation at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, from next week.

A barracks in Pembrokeshire, Wales, is also being considered for use by the Home Office, the PA news agency understands. 

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