This is from the Telegraph
The French Navy is escorting migrant boats across the Channel and into British waters because smuggling gangs are exploiting legal maritime loopholes, it has emerged, as MPs call for new powers to return people to France.
By law, all mariners have a duty to provide assistance to vessels in distress at sea, as per the International Convention on Safety of Life at Sea, 1974.
The small boats that are used to cross the Channel are often overloaded and sometimes taking on water, but when French vessels have attempted to intercept them, migrants have threatened to jump into the sea, or even throw children overboard.
Their refusal to be rescued by French authorities puts lives at risk, so the French have no option but to shadow the boats across the Channel until they reach British waters, where the migrants are safe in the knowledge that they will be taken to Britain, rather than back to France.
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.”
On Wednesday, four more boats carrying a total of 60 people were brought to Dover, having been collected by Border Force agents just inside British waters.
So far this year, 1,775 people have made it to the UK this way, with a record 741 coming in May alone. Last year, a total of 1,890 people crossed the Channel illegally.
The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, says that she is planning to bring in new laws after Britain leaves the EU to make it easier to return cross-Channel migrants to France.
But further calls have been made by MPs to act sooner.
Natalie Elphicke, MP for Dover & Deal, said: “These crossings will only stop when migrants and traffickers alike know they won’t succeed. That means making the legal tools available to return every illegal entrant.
“It’s a big task but this problem has gone on for years. We need to get on with solving it once and for all.”
Lucy Moreton of the Immigration Services Union, representing border workers told The Telegraph: “The ideal and technically correct solution to the issue of irregular migration – particularly small boat migration – is to make it less successful. People will hopefully hesitate to spend so much money and put their lives at risk if they know that they will not be able to stay in the UK for more than a few hours or days.
“Forced return at sea may seem a logical step, but it is incredibly dangerous.
Rescue is dangerous enough when the subject is compliant – if they don’t want to be rescued the lives of both the crewman and the migrant are at risk.
“If someone falls into the water between two boats at sea there is a high likelihood that they will be injured by one or other vessel.
“Migrants regularly threaten to jump overboard or throw someone overboard. Whilst return at sea is logical, it is dangerous. I am not sure the British public is willing to see fatalities arise from this.”