Investigation after Border Force enters French waters to pick up migrants

An urgent investigation has been launched by the Home Office after a UK Border Force vessel entered French waters to pick up migrants crossing the Channel and take them to Dover.

The controversial operation was negotiated between the HMC Valiant and French patrol ship Athos last Saturday, according to the Daily Mail.

The action by the border agency to help migrants enter the country will be seen as undermining efforts by Home Secretary Priti Patel to clamp down on illicit crossings.

She has repeatedly called on the French to tackle the crisis, which has seen record numbers of migrants reach UK shores.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are urgently investigating the circumstances behind this incident.”

The number of people making the perilous journey over the 21-mile stretch of water has almost doubled so far in 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, with more than 3,100 having reached the English coast by the end of May.

Over just three days alone this week nearly 600 migrants were intercepted attempting to cross the Channel.

Last Saturday’s impromptu mid-Channel handover was revealed in a maritime radio exchange on open frequencies.

In a recording obtained by the newspaper, the officers discuss the “legality” of the move.

The British cutter then crosses into French territorial waters and launches an inflatable boat to collect the migrants and take them to Dover.

In the conversation there was no suggestion that the migrant vessel was in trouble, with the French only reporting it was moving “very slowly” and so the incursion did not appear to be an emergency life-saving mission.

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April: Children among migrants picked up in Channel

The sailor who handed the radio message to the Mail told the newspaper: “We know the French are escorting migrant boats towards the UK instead of turning them back to France.

“But this is a first time I have heard of British Border Force collecting migrants on the French side of the Channel.

“I have suspected it going on for some time, but the radio message that I happened to overhear on an public channel proves it.

“The French patrol boat captain makes clear the migrants are not in peril at sea.

“They were travelling slowly towards the UK where they would have been collected by UK Border Force vessels in English waters.”

Last week, traffic was brought to a standstill at the port of Dover as anti-immigration protesters marched in opposition to migrant crossings.