Navigation data proves French military routinely enter UK waters overseeing trafficking
Over a crackling maritime radio comes the voice of the captain of the small French warship Aramis as it cruises the English Channel.
In heavily accented but precise English, he instructs P&O’s Pride of Kent ferry to move out of his way so he can shepherd a boat full of migrants floundering off the French coast towards English waters.
Aramis’s captain says the dinghy is on his port side and he is escorting the tiny vessel safely on its journey in the Channel.
The captain’s instruction was issued an hour after dawn on an extraordinary day in the world’s busiest shipping route when nearly 400 migrants sailed from France and successfully reached the Kent coast.
Between sunrise and early evening it’s believed at least 50 small boats carrying men, women, children, five babes in arms and even a double amputee, reached Dover and the surrounding shorelines.
A second radio message made by the same Aramis captain five minutes’ later is equally astonishing.
In it, the captain forbids all vessels in the area from coming within one nautical mile — a little more than one land mile — of his vessel to allow safe passage for the migrant boat he is escorting.
Scores of ships and other craft in the busy Channel that morning were forced to change course for the Aramis and the dinghy.
A global ship-tracking website called MarineTraffic shows the Pride of Kent moving away from its normal route, immediately after the first radio message — and arriving at the Port of Calais a few minutes late as a result.
The radio messages have emerged just as the French Navy stands accused of indirectly helping people-smuggling gangs operating on the French coast where thousands of migrants from the Middle East and Africa wait to get to England.
In their defence, the French maritime authorities say their priority is to preserve human life and safe navigation in the Channel. By law, all mariners have a duty to assist vessels in distress under a 25-year-old international convention on safety at sea.
It is impossible to say exactly how many times this has happened because, shockingly, according to a maritime route-checking agency, French Navy vessels in the Channel often turn off tracking devices to hide their ‘operation purposes’ and ‘keep their route information secret’.
Certainly, the Aramis’s route on Tuesday morning as it headed towards England could not be found by the agency. It is thought not to have used a tracking device since last year.
In contrast, the Pride of Kent’s forced diversion on Tuesday can clearly be seen on maritime tracking websites, alongside routes of hundreds of other vessels sailing in the area that morning.