Border Force tries to cover up migrant 'rescue' missions

Border Force tries to cover up migrant 'rescue' missions

Hidden in thick sea fog, the Border Force's powerful cutter Seeker raced from the middle of the English Channel carrying 30 migrants towards Dover on Thursday.

It had just plucked them from an unseaworthy black rubber dinghy launched from a French beach before dawn and destined for Britain's south coast.

The cutter plucked them to safety under the watchful eye of a French Navy rescue ship, Abeille Liberte, which was illegally in English waters of the Channel from 9.52 (British time) that morning.

Maritime tracking stations show Abeille Liberte had left the French port of Boulogne at 9.11 (British time) the previous evening before starting a night watch of the Channel. 

It may even have spotted and escorted the rubber dinghy on its route from France towards England.

Seeker, at least, appears to have been operating in secrecy that day. We understand no messages between it and Abeille Liberte were made on public radio channels – as is customary – before Border Force picked up the migrants. 

And after the mid-Channel collection, it turned for home before suddenly disappearing off the radar at 12.43pm British time.

At that moment it had turned off its Automatic Identification System, known as AIS and used to pinpoint vessels' positions and stop collisions.

This meant the cutter's return journey to Dover with its migrant cargo was impossible to track for other ships or even maritime authorities monitoring the hundreds of sailings that day, in dangerously heavy fog in the Channel.

Meanwhile, maritime border rules are being breached regularly by the French Navy. 

The Abeille Liberte entered English waters this week and another French rescue ship on migrant patrol in the Channel – P618 Escaut, which did have its AIS operating – did so on Monday.