A kayak and six boats carrying migrants were brought to Dover on Tuesday morning after crossing the Channel illegally, as the French Navy was alleged to have escorted them across the sea.
Some 80 people made it to the UK after being shadowed across the busy shipping lane and into British waters by a French navy vessel.
Already this month, a record 681 people have made it to the UK in this way. Some 1,336 have made landfall since lockdown on March 23 and 1,715 have arrived this year in total.
Those numbers are expected to rise significantly in the coming weeks, and could overtake 2019’s total of 1,890 arrivals soon.
French authorities have been given extra financial and technical support by the UK, including drones and authority to cross into each other's territorial waters. They say that over 1,100 migrants were arrested in France in the first quarter of this year, compared to 342 arrests in the same period last year.
But there is strong evidence to suggest that their navy ships are shadowing migrant boats into British waters where they are collected by Border Force agents and brought to Britain.
Home Office sources told the Telegraph: "At sea, under international law, the preservation of life is paramount. There have been some instances where migrants refuse to board French boats. The boat will remain with the migrants to ensure their safety."
Today, @Nigel_Farage said that a French Naval vessel escorted boats carrying migrants into British waters.
This claim checks out
Priti Patel says govt planning to bring in new laws post-Brexit to make it easier to return cross-Channel migrants to Francehttps://t.co/IYKnKXLtPr pic.twitter.com/QvhMBJbDSH
— Jamie Johnson (@JamieoJohnson) May 20, 2020
On Tuesday morning, Brexit party leader Nigel Farage once again took to the water and broadcast live on Facebook as a boat was being collected by Border Force, having apparently been handed over by the French.
“What we witnessed again today was the French Navy escorting them into our waters. It’s an outrage, it’s got to stop,” he said.
Last week, Sky News made similar claims, supported by video footage of a French Navy boat called Fourmentin apparently in British waters, not interfering with a small boat.
Vessel tracking data showed that it had crossed into British waters, but on Tuesday, facing the same allegations, its transponder appeared to have been turned off.
French Navy tactics have changed but it’s still the same game. They know we’re watching them. pic.twitter.com/AJvRb4a1J2
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) May 26, 2020
Previously, French authorities have said that when they have tried to rescue migrant boats in their waters, the individuals on board have resisted and threatened to throw themselves and even children into the water.
Lucy Moreton, of the Immigration Services Union, representing border workers, told the Times that the British and French authorities had little choice but to assist the boats to the UK once they had left the beaches. “The first rule of maritime law is preservation of life,” she said. “If we or the French intercept in a manner that causes someone to lose their life we will be criticised.”