Border Force vessels and French Navy ships heard colluding to provide 'handover' of traffickers' boats
British Government vessels and French Navy ships are colluding in the Channel to provide a 'handover' of traffickers' boats bringing illegal migrants to the UK.
A businessman trading in seafood from Ramsgate has recordings, taken legally, rrevealing the extraordinary level of co-operation at sea between the two nations in 'pass the parcel' operations organised by Border Force officers and French warship captains.
In an astonishing series of maritime radio conversations, recorded on Sunday morning from a public maritime radio channel, the French warships and France's maritime police can be heard contacting the Border Force vessels Defender, Hurricane and Ranger to arrange the handover of boats carrying migrants, including five children, 12 miles off Kent.
The conversation between the vessels suggests the French Navy is routinely guiding migrant boats from the French coast to mid-Channel meet-ups with the British, who then put the passengers on board boats to bring them into Dover.
The three radio conversations between the French and British vessels took place between 10am and 11am UK time on Remembrance Sunday.
They begin with the captain of France's warship Pluvier calling the Defender to say: 'We have just crossed into your area.'
The French officer gives a maritime chart reference showing that he is on the French-English sea border in the Channel.
The Defender officer responds: 'We have good visibility of this (migrant) craft. We are going to.... make sure there is no sea traffic to interfere. We are content to let the migrant vessel run on a little bit further.'
Pluvier then replies: 'I understand we have a handover with you.'
Defender agrees, requesting the French ship to 'remain in current area until we can start embarkation'.
In a second conversation, thought to refer to a separate migrant boat, the French maritime police radio call BF Hurricane, also on duty intercepting illegals in the Channel that morning.
The French police say: 'We are on our route coming with one boat of migrants. Are you ready to receive them or not?'
Border Force Hurricane replies: 'We have just been tasked to another event but there is another vessel on its way with an ETA (estimated time of arrival) of about 20 minutes.
The BF officer asks the French maritime police: 'If you could please stay with them until another vessel which is Border Force Ranger arrives there.'
Saying he has received the message, the maritime police promise their vessel will stay beside the migrant boat until Border Force Ranger gets to the pick-up point between French and British Channel waters.
In a third recording some minutes later, the French maritime police tell the BF Ranger their warship is 'right now on your starboard side'.
'We contacted the BF Hurricane just before,' says the French message. 'Normally, you come into our position to take charge of the small [migrant] boat we are escorting.'
The Ranger responds: 'We will be closing in on your position at the moment. We will be on scene in approximately five minutes.
The reply is unclear due to interference online, but the Ranger is told there are adult migrants and 'five children'.
The Ranger closes the conversation with the words: ' We will be with you shortly. Appreciate if you could hold station while we embark [the migrants].'
Government figures show a provisional crossings total for the year of 41,729. Total crossings last year were 28,526.