Fifty migrants on floundering dinghy refused help from French warship
EXCLUSIVE Fifty migrants on boat in the middle of English Channel refuse to be rescued by French warship…so UK Border Force picks them up and brings them to Dover
- Fifty migrants in a failing dinghy refused to be rescued by a French Navy warship
- A Border Force vessel from Kent brought them in to Dover in a two-hour mission
Fifty migrants packed into a floundering rubber dinghy in the Channel were picked up by a Border Force vessel today after refusing to be rescued by a French Navy warship.
In a two-hour operation, Border Force vessel Ranger raced from the Kent coast to the centre of the Channel to bring the ‘agitated’ migrants into Dover.
Videos and maritime radio messages between Ranger and the warship Formentin, obtained by the Mail, reveal a high level of collaboration between the French and British over organising the flimsy dinghy’s journey safely to the UK.
The migrants are understood to have turned down the French navy’s offer of rescue to avoid being returned to France and losing the chance of claiming asylum in Britain.
They arrived at Dover this morning around the same time data from the Office for National Statistics revealed UK net migration soared to a record 606,000 people last year.
A group of fifty migrants were pictured being brought into Dover marina by Border Force vessel Ranger, after the group had refused help from a French Navy warship (pictured: a Border Force vessel in Dover today)
The group of around 50 migrants are being brought into Dover, after their packed dinghy floundered in windy conditions in the English Channel (pictured: migrants arriving today)
This map shows the path of the French warship as it escorted the dinghy this morning
During today’s manoeuvres, the Ranger crew advised the Formentin to use its ‘powerboats to stay in range’ of the dinghy until it could rendezvous for the mid-Channel pick-up.
When the migrants were put on Ranger, the crew can be heard on maritime radio warmly thanking the Formentin captain ‘and his team on board’ for ‘supporting us in this rescue’.
READ MORE: Dozens of migrants cross the Channel in hazy conditions as number of small boat arrivals this year edges towards 7,500
Maritime charts show the Formentin began escorting the dinghy from the French coast well before dawn, soon after it put to sea on a beach near Wimereux, a few miles from Boulogne.
The warship stayed alongside the migrants for four hours as their flimsy craft headed towards the UK in unseasonably rough seas and winds.
The first radio message, on public radio, from the Formentin to Ranger came before 7am when the dinghy was still on the French side of the Channel.
The warship captain said in broken English: ‘We ask to the (migrants’) dinghy if they need our assistance. They say to me they only want UK assistance. But there is a lot of agitation on the dinghy.’
An officer on Ranger then responds by offering to come out from Dover, despite the dinghy still being in French territorial waters.
The officer says: ‘I understand. They (the migrants) are waiting for UK assistance. We are now about to effect our rescue.’
He then tells the warship to use its inflatable RHIBs (powerboats) to closely monitor the migrants’ safety until the Border Force vessel arrived at a mid-channel rendezvous.
According to observers in the Channel, the 50 migrants were put on board Ranger, and their empty black dinghy was later picked up another Border Force craft.
The Ranger was one of two Border Force vessels to have brought an estimated 100 people, including women and children, into Dover today after they crossed the Channel in small boats.
Today’s arrivals come as the Home Office confirmed that 98 people arrived on two small boats on Wednesday.
According to observers in the Channel, the 50 migrants were put on board Ranger today, and their empty black dinghy was later picked up another Border Force craft (pictured: migrants arriving in Dover today)
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, today as figures reveal net migration to the UK has jumped 606,000 (pictured: a Border Force vessel in Dover today)
Border Force officials assist migrants as they arrive in Dover marina today
The Ranger was one of two Border Force vessels to have brought an estimated 100 people, including women and children, into Dover today after they crossed the Channel in small boats (pictured: a Border Force vessel in Dover today)
The total who have crossed so far this year is 7,395, according to an analysis by the Press Association media agency of Home Office figures.
A total of 45,755 made the crossing last year, compared to 28,526 in 2021, 8,466 in 2020 and 1,843 in 2019.
The Home Office has predicted a worst-case scenario of 85,000 arriving on small boats this year.
The skipper of a fishing vessel who watched the operation today said: ‘The migrants refuse to go back to France and even if their lives are at risk will not board a French warship in case they are returned there.
READ MORE: Inside the giant barge that will house 500 migrants who arrive in Britain: En-suite bedrooms, gym and a bar all await asylum seekers on the ‘Bibby Stockholm’ vessel docked in Cornwall
‘What is incredible, is that Border Force co-operates with the migrants’ demands although they are illegally coming to Britain and many are economic migrants not refugees.’
A high percentage of the small-boat arrivals carry no documents. It is thought some destroy them in the Channel to avoid their national identity being discovered.
The skipper added: ‘We who work in the Channel have concluded that migrants are advised by traffickers running the small boats, and making millions, that they must shout for rescue by the British so the fares get paid.
‘If the migrants are pushed back to France, the traffickers are left empty-handed.’
Ministers teed up a fresh clampdown on immigration today as Rishi Sunak faced a Tory backlash over an extraordinary spike in numbers.
Long-awaited statistics showed net migration to the UK was 606,000 across 2022.
That was far higher than the 488,000 level for 2021 – even though that was upgraded by 91,000 in the latest official publication.
The jump was fueled by arrivals from outside the EU, largely coming to study or work, as well as to seek refuge from chaos in Ukraine, Afghanistan and Hong Kong.
Although slightly lower than some had feared, the eye-watering level – roughly equivalent to adding the population of Bristol or Glasgow in a single year – sparked a furious political row over the Conservative manifesto pledge that ‘numbers will come down’ from the 226,000 in 2019.
Under David Cameron and Theresa May there was a commitment to bring the long-term net migration figures into the tens of thousands, and one of the selling points for Brexit was ‘taking back control’ of borders.
Tory anger at the situation was evident in the House of Commons this morning, with warnings that voters will not tolerate the ‘unsustainable’ situation.
Long-awaited statistics showed another rise in net migration to 606,000 across 2022 – breaking the previous record of 504,000 from the year to last June
Net migration has been driven by arrivals from outside the EU for the past few years
Speaking on ITV’s This Morning, Mr Sunak said: ‘Numbers are too high, it’s as simple as that. And I want to bring them down.’
But Mr Sunak stressed he had ‘inherited’ significant levels, suggesting he was still aiming for the 266,000 from the manifesto. Pressed on whether immigration is out of control, he replied: ‘Well, no, I think the numbers are just too high.’
The premier said measures put in place this week to stop most foreign students bringing dependants ‘are significant’.
But immigration minister Robert Jenrick hinted that the government will go further, suggesting more ‘interventions’ are on the cards.
In a glimmer of encouragement for Mr Sunak, analysts at the Migration Observatory suggested that net migration might be on the way down, having peaked at 637,000 in the year to September.
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