ISABEL OAKESHOTT

Political journalist and commentator

Dinghy Ding Dong

Mar
25

WHAT if boat loads of migrants started pitching up on British beaches? Sound far fetched?

They’re already trying.

I have been predicting this might happen for some time. Now there’s proof. An article in a French newspaper recently revealed that French coastguards have intercepted a number of attempted crossings by boats of migrants in recent weeks.

According to the piece (which you can find here: http://m.lavoixdunord.fr/region/manche-surveillance-renforcee-pour-prevenir-les-ia33b48581n3387944 ) French maritime authorities have stepped up patrols and are on a state of high alert amid mounting concern about migrants who have failed to sneak onto lorries at Calais taking matters into their own hands – and trying to make the crossing by sea.

When migrants try to get from Turkey to the Greek islands, they only have to make it across a mile or two. It’s just four kilometers from the Bodrum peninsula to Kos. That is perilous enough.

Getting from France or Belgium to England is another matter. The narrowest possible stretch is 20 miles or so, fraught with risk every inch of the way. Giant passenger ferries and cargo ships wont be getting out of the way for makeshift rafts and rubber dinghies captained by people with no nautical skills. They won’t even see them.

As Calais becomes an increasingly impenetrable fortress, and the Jungle is dismantled, migrants will naturally explore new routes to Britain.

The spectacle of even one boatload of bedraggled refugees heading for our coast would not only represent another human tragedy – it would electrify the EU referendum campaign.

In recent weeks I have been joking – only joking – with Brexiteers that they might consider organizing such a stunt. Now it looks like they may not have to, because it’s happening for real.

For those who don’t speak French, here’s a speedy translation of the article in La Voix Du Nord. Disclaimer: my French is rusty, so there may be the odd mistake. But you get the gist.

The Channel: Patrols stepped up to block attempted migrant boat crossings

 MARITIME authorities in the Channel and North Seat have blocked several attempted crossings by boats of migrants in recent weeks in the Pas de Calais to lower Normandy area. Given the danger that such attempted crossings pose, state services have announced that they are stepping up patrols.

Coastguards in the Channel and North Sea are alarmed by attempts by boatloads of migrants to reach England, typically ‘In the night, on poorly equipped and overloaded vessels, without the slightest navigational skills and heedless of the serious danger that such initiatives present” in one of the busiest stretches of water in the world; an area prone to high winds and strong currents.

Following reports of such incidents, maritime authorities have stepped up surveillance operations at sea as well as increasing aerial and ground patrols.

Two search and rescue operation bases in the littoral, and 14 semaphore (?) spread along the coast, have also been put on a state of high alert, round the clock.

In February, a dinghy with four migrants on board was rescued by lifeboats in the Sangatte area. According to their account, the dinghy had set off some hours earlier from a Dunkirk beach. In May 2014, an Afghan migrant attempted to cross the Channel in a makeshift dinghy, and was intercepted in the Blanc-Nez cap area.

Maritime authorities have appealed to anyone who hears of attempted crossings; or who witnesses such attempts, to warn all those engaged in such attempts of the serious risk involved.

A spokesman said: “All sightings of [attempted] crossings which appear risky must be reported to the regional coastguard search and rescue headquarters (CROSS) by VHF or by calling 196.”

 

 

 

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