British rescue services accused of abandoning 38 Channel migrants in small boat

An Anglo-French row has broken out after French coastguards accused British Channel rescue services of abandoning a small boat carrying 38 migrants in

distress. Coastguards from the union Solidaires Douanes claimed the UK had said it would rescue the boat when it entered UK waters but failed to do so, leaving it to drift

back into the French part of the channel. They said the migrants, who were “exhausted, afraid and frozen”, were rescued by the French after their engine failed and were

taken back to France. The incident is said to have happened on Jan 2, with the dinghy reaching the UK part of the Channel at about 5.30pm French time, before the migrants

being rescued at 9pm. However, British sources dispute the account, saying the boat never entered UK waters and that there was not a risk to life as it was being shadowed by

a French coastguard boat, the Kermorvan. The source said the British rescue services had been in contact with the French authorities throughout the incident, and British

vessels in the area were on standby in case they were needed if the situation had deteriorated.  They also noted that it was a union, rather than official French

authorities, making the claims. The incident shows how migrants’ small boats are shepherded by the French to the midpoint of the Channel before a hand-over to the British -

although in this case, there appears to have been a breakdown in communications. Rémi Vandeplanque, a French coastguard involved in the rescue operation, said they had

started shadowing the boat when it was in French waters and then followed it as it entered UK waters.