French Fishing Ships Paid by Migrant Smugglers to Avoid Detection by UK Border Drones: Report

An SNSM boat arrive at Les Sables d'Olonne harbour on June 10, 2019 to attend a white march in tribute to three rescuers killed on June 7, when a SNSM vessel capsized in rough seas as a giant storm pummelled the country's Atlantic coast. - The SNSM team had been …
SEBASTIEN SALOM-GOMIS/AFP via Getty Images

People smuggling gangs are paying off French fishing boats to smuggle migrants halfway across the English Channel in order to avoid detection from UK Border Force drones, a report has claimed.

The French boats reportedly sit “still” in the Channel for fifteen minutes after leaving Calais in the early hours of the morning, giving them enough time to release the migrants in pre-inflated rubber dinghies into British territorial waters.

“Nobody is going to suspect a French fishing boat,” a source told The Sun, adding: “The organised crime gangs have infiltrated them. They’re giving them cash.”

According to the report, sources claim that the same migrants who board the French fishing boats are seen arriving on British beaches or being brought ashore by the Border Force hours later.

“The smuggling gang bosses know crossings have become more high-profile with greater security so this is a way to avoid recognition.

“After two years of pressure, the authorities in France are finally stopping more leaving. But the feeling is the smugglers are one step ahead,” the source concluded.

By using the French fishing vessels to smuggle migrants, traffickers are able to avoid the detection of drones such as the £22 million unmanned Watchkeeper British Army drone, which was deployed in the Channel to spot migrant boats earlier this year.

On Monday, between 70 and 80 migrants were brought ashore by the UK Border Force at the Port of Dover, according to the Daily Mail.

Witnesses said that three of the migrant boats were escorted into British waters by the French officials, however, it is unknown whether French fishing boats were used during the crossings on Monday.

On Saturday, some 170 migrants made it to UK shores, travelling in 12 rubber boats. Another 222 were stopped from making the perilous journey by French authorities, the Home Office said.

The crossings on Saturday take the number of illegal boat migrants who reached the UK since the start of the year to a record 7,370, compared to 1,890 for the entirety of 2019. In September, nearly 2,000 migrants reached the UK by illegally crossing the English Channel.

In actuality, the number of illegal migrants is likely to be much higher, as the Home Office refuses to publish data for alleged child migrants and the figures fail to reflect migrants who reach the country undetected.

The perilous nature of the migrant route in the Channel was tragically demonstrated over the weekend when a man, believed to be between the age of 20-40, was found drowned on the Sangatte beach near Calais.

The man was found with a life vest, similar to those seen used by migrants, and the man was not carrying any documents of identification, a common feature of migrants arriving illegally into the UK.

A criminal enquiry was opened by French prosecutor Pascal Macronville, who said that the man appeared to be Middle Eastern, and that “an examination of the body does not reveal the intervention of a third party.”

In August, a 28-year-old Sudanese migrant, Abdulfatah Hamdallah, was found dead on the same beach by Calais after drowning in the Channel. At first, media reports erroneously characterised the migrant as a 16-year-old child.

Commenting on the death, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage warned: “We must stop this criminal trade, or more lives will be lost.”

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here: @KurtZindulka

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