icon bookmark-bicon bookmarkicon cameraicon checkicon chevron downicon chevron lefticon chevron righticon chevron upicon closeicon v-compressicon downloadicon editicon v-expandicon fbicon fileicon filtericon flag ruicon full chevron downicon full chevron lefticon full chevron righticon full chevron upicon gpicon insicon mailicon moveicon-musicicon mutedicon nomutedicon okicon v-pauseicon v-playicon searchicon shareicon sign inicon sign upicon stepbackicon stepforicon swipe downicon tagicon tagsicon tgicon trashicon twicon vkicon yticon wticon fm

Immoral French are blatantly putting migrants’ lives at risk by not doing enough to prevent Channel crossings

Chris Sweeney
Chris Sweeney

Chris Sweeney is an author and columnist who has written for newspapers such as The Times, Daily Express, The Sun and Daily Record, along with several international-selling magazines. Follow him on Twitter @Writes_Sweeney

Chris Sweeney is an author and columnist who has written for newspapers such as The Times, Daily Express, The Sun and Daily Record, along with several international-selling magazines. Follow him on Twitter @Writes_Sweeney

Immoral French are blatantly putting migrants’ lives at risk by not doing enough to prevent Channel crossings
With new footage making clear that France is more concerned with getting migrants out of its territory than protecting lives, it’s time for Britain to act. It needs to hold President Macron to account for this shameful policy.

Something is either right or wrong. Laws can help make that distinction. But we all have a sense of morality, and there’s no lying to your conscience.

That’s why the French government should be hanging their heads in shame at sickening scenes captured by Nigel Farage in the Channel. Footage showed 16 migrants making the crossing to Dover in England from north-west France.

All of them, men, women and children, were huddled together on an inflatable dinghy that looked more suited to a swimming pool. The strong wind whipped up the sea, causing it to gradually sink.

Some of the worried occupants were bailing out the water via plastic containers to stay afloat. None appeared to have any form of navigation, there was no proper method of steering and the people were dressed in everyday clothes. And this in the world’s busiest shipping lane.

Basic human decency would see anyone able to help do whatever they could. The French Navy wasn't able to muster even that. They were out near the dinghy on a large ship, before dispatching a small motorboat.

Did they pick the people up and remove them from danger?

No.

They tossed over lifejackets, bottles of water - and scarpered. They wanted to ensure the dinghy left their territory and entered British waters.

Once that happened, the bigger ship sailed off into the distance, leaving these 16 desperate souls to fend for themselves.

Now Nigel Farage may be no supporter of immigration, but the asylum seekers have no idea how lucky he was there filming the whole episode.

As his vessel was the only one around, nothing else troubled the horizon. He bobbed around alongside them as someone on board telephoned the UK Border Force, who eventually arrived to take them to safety.

Whatever the furore about the rights and wrongs of immigration, this is an abomination. And it appears to be the first time it’s been captured on film.

Spineless French authorities issued a statement to say: “The actions of the maritime authorities are centered on safeguarding human life and safe navigation in the Channel. The priority is to assist and rescue each of the boats.”

Escorting migrants into British waters has been going on for months, but no one was aware just how callous the French were being in abandoning sinking rafts.

Also on rt.com My years in the police tell me some Islamic terrorists are likely reaching our shores in those rubber dinghies. I fear the worst

Is it too fanciful to suggest that there might be another 16 bodies at the bottom of the Channel somewhere? The people who are attempting to cross are outside the system; they have left their family and friends behind and no one would miss them on a daily basis.

A dinghy could sink and never be noticed. And this isn’t a hypothetical worst-case scenario, as the French really are playing fast and loose with vulnerable people’s lives.

A lot of the anger in Britain has been directed towards the Home Secretary, Priti Patel. Farage and others want her to clamp down and stop these rafts reaching the UK. But that is where things get more complicated.

It’s commonly stated that migrants must apply for asylum in the first safe country they land in, so shouldn’t be coming to the UK. But they are actually able to make their claim anywhere they wish. The 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act provides a defence against prosecuting refugees for entering the UK illegally.

Of course, those who do arrive in Britain have to demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution otherwise they will be deported.

And this highlights the nasty side of the French antics. They are cunningly remaining inside international law, as a country’s waters only stretch 12 nautical miles from its coast. So, they are facilitating boats to leave their jurisdiction and forcing Britain to act if it becomes aware of a raft heading for its waters.

But if we all conducted ourselves with this kind of ruthless Gallic logic, the world would be a very cruel place. Some humane solutions could easily be organised.

These migrants are people simply seeking to fashion a better life. Would it not be logical to prevent any dinghies leaving and give those about to risk their lives a ticket?

Once a week, either a British or French boat could take an agreed number of ticket holders across the Channel. Right now, we have ships from both nations shepherding and escorting. So why not just take some migrants over? That way, authorities on both sides would have official records of how many people are on the move and be able to prepare for their arrival.

Currently boats come crashing on to British beaches, and in some cases the occupants disappear off in various directions. Some may end up being exploited; others may turn to crime to survive.

Surely once word spreads about ‘official crossings’, then the daredevil tactics of hitting the high seas in a kid’s blow-up boat would cease? Last month a man died when his boat sank, after he had been using shovels for oars. This is a tragedy that is likely to be repeated.

French President Emmanuel Macron has made a big show of getting involved in Lebanon after the Beirut blast. But what are he and his government doing about this skullduggery in home waters?

Under the cover of darkness, there could have been any number of dinghies left to sink, once they’d been deliberately nudged out of French territory. Why aren’t they doing more to stop these crossings?

But now the French have been caught red-handed, and Britain should hold their feet to the fire and demand some cooperation to prevent these dangerous crossings. The public glare of the Brexit negotiations could be the ideal platform; it might even help turn the screw on getting a trade deal.

By the same token, let’s not turn this into a discussion exclusively about stopping boats. These people are so desperate and will come if they feel there’s no other option, so Britain should deal with them with respect when they do arrive.

The French, though, have a bigger task, to rediscover their morals. Gleefully escorting people into British territory, dashing away and leaving them in peril is shameful behaviour, and will inevitably end in tragedy.

Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Podcasts