Two Polish men have been picked up by the Dover Lifeboat crew as they attempted to paddle to France in a stolen boat. They said they were making the crossing in search of work.
The men, who are in their 20s, were rescued only two miles into their 21-mile voyage as they battled strong headwinds before the lifeboat crew came alongside. They had left at 0800hrs after purloining a vessel from nearby Folkestone, the Daily Mail reports.
James Clapham, from the Dover Lifeboat Station said, “They were trying to make it to Calais, but with the strong breeze and incoming tide they didn’t get very far,” adding, “It’s quite unusual to try and get to the other side.
“They said they had been looking for work but didn’t find any in Britain and they said they were going back to France.”
It is understood that the men said they were penniless and unemployed.
The crew handed the men to officers from Kent Police later that morning.
Local man Derek Edwards described the attempts as “crazy” when “all those people in Calais are desperately trying to get into the country.”
“They were lucky they were spotted before they got half way across the Channel or it could have ended in tragedy,” he said.
A Kent Police spokesman said: “We were called just before 9am to reports that two Polish men had taken a boat from Folkestone and were rowing to France.
“They were picked up by Dover Lifeboat and the men were questioned by UK Border Force.
“Kent Police is trying to locate the owner of the boat which is believed to be stolen.”
Since the men were from Poland and have free movement within the EU and were in British territorial waters, no immigration offences had been committed.
But it’s not the first time that human traffic has been caught exiting Britain. In July last year a group of 28 illegal immigrants were caught trying to sneak out of the country by stowing away on a lorry. The 22 men, four women and two children were found after the truck they were hiding in disembarked from the P&O ferry The Spirit of France in Calais and returned to the UK.
The driver of the lorry, an unnamed Romanian, was questioned by French police before being allowed to continue his journey to Poland.