A series of extraordinary pictures has revealed French border guards escorting a boatload of 16 migrants into British waters and 'dumping' them there.
The incident was witnessed yesterday morning from a fishing boat about 12 miles from Folkestone near the French-British sea border.
The images capture the moment a French rigid inflatable boat or RIB, carrying two border guards, was dispatched from a larger naval vessel to check on the migrants.
But, rather than block them from entering British waters, they allowed the illegal crossing to continue.
Most of the 16 on board the little inflatable were understood to be Afghan nationals, including two children and two women.
A passenger on the fishing boat said they called UK Border Force just after 7.45am because it looked as if the overloaded vessel was about to sink. The migrants were using cut up plastic bottles to it bail out.
Migrants packed into a tiny dinghy were forced to bail out water after the raft started sinking while they were trying to cross the Channel
The Border Force cutter Hunter later picked them up before bringing them back to Dover.
A witness on the fishing boat said: 'We thought the French guards on the RIB were going to take them back, but they continued escorting them down the north-east lane of the Channel and into British waters. They pretty much just dumped them there.
'We called the Border Force because it looked like they were going to sink. It was very, very choppy and windy.'
Tory MP Tim Loughton, who sits on the parliamentary home affairs committee, said: 'This is further evidence the French are happy to provide an escort service to people illegally trying to get into Britain rather than turn them round.'
He said further evidence that the French are not doing enough to ensure migrants make asylum applications in France – rather than undertake dangerous Channel crossings – had come from witnesses working with migrants in France and was given to the select committee yesterday.
The dinghy was carrying more than a dozen migrants who were trying to reach the UK despite strong winds at sea
The boat, carrying men, women and children was intercepted by Border Force officials near the Kent coast
A second boat is understood to have landed on the beach at Kingsdown near Deal in Kent
He added: 'It is clear that the first priority of the French is to make their problem our problem.'
Natalie Elphicke, the MP for Dover, told the Mail: 'Safety at sea starts with stopping small boats leaving French shores in the first place. They must be turned around at the earliest opportunity, closer to land.'
France's border forces do stop some boats, but it is often only a small proportion compared to the number that make it across.
For example, on Tuesday 151 migrants made it to British shores on 11 boats, compared with 36 on three boats stopped and sent back by the French.
They were seen using plastic bottles to desperately get rid of the water flooding the dinghy
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