Inside the deadly do-it-yourself boats used by people smuggling gangs to send refugees to the sea

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Bands of greedy human traffickers send desperate migrants out to sea on death traps, homemade boats.

Four thin do-it-yourself rafts were found at Dungeness Beach in Kent today – hours after 27 people died when they tried to cross the canal in a similar, thin vessel, which capsized on Wednesday night.

But asylum seekers are still willing to risk their lives, another 50 or so are passing today. Natalie Golden, of the charity Care 4 Calais, said: “These rafts do not look suitable for use on a lake by boat.”

The boats had been cut together from strong PVC, marine gaffer tape and thin plywood boards screwed together.

Three black and one in white – the boats look remarkably similar to the convicted RIB who saw three children, seven women, including an expectant mother and 17 men die in icy conditions off the coast of Calais.

Pictures from Dungeness beach today



Peter Faulding, owner of Specialist Group International, which carries out maritime safety operations and supports police diving teams across the UK, said: “These boats are amateurs. It looks like they have been taped together and the plywood is not even treated.

“There is no chance that I would go out to sea in one of these and if I put my team on board one I would expect to be prosecuted and brought to justice.

“I do not think these boats are transported long distances so they are probably built within 20 miles of the French coast in a deserted warehouse or an old farm.

Boats on the Dungeness beach – many mass-produced and DIY-designed



“Someone in the gang must have the knowledge to put them together, even if the valves look very basic.

– Normally, boat pipes are made of a material called hypalon, so they must also have a supplier. It looks like they have templates for creating the tubes and I expect a team of at least five people to work with them.

“The French police must find this outfit quickly, because if they continue to manufacture these boats, many more people will die in the canal.”

Discarded items could be seen inside the boats, including cold weather clothing, baby shoes and Nautamine travel sickness tablets.

HM Gränsstyrkan seizes boats and life jackets



Each RIB also had at least one cheap bicycle pump – in case of emptying – and cut off plastic bottles to save water.

There is currently a shortage of boats throughout northern France due to canal seizures and sales bans from companies including Decathlon.

This is the first evidence to suggest that criminal gangs are now building their own boats in a secret factory.

The boats seem to have been made of identical patterns and are about 8 meters long.

Migrants launch an inflatable boat and set off for Britain


Steve Reigate Daily Express)

The ‘sponsors’ (side pontoons) are made of a single piece of heavy PVC, closed off with a circular piece on the back.

Five separate sections of PVC have then been attached with strips of marine duck tape to form the front of the boat.

The base is another single layer of PVC topped with eight plywood boards, which have been secured by screwing the batten.

At the back, a thicker piece of plywood between the sponsors provides an attachment point for an outboard engine.

The remains of the dinghy that sank


Sky News)

The design is clearly poor and many of the attached handles and attachment points for safety ropes had failed during the crossing.

The boats were stored at Dungeness Lifeboat Station overnight on Wednesday before being picked up by a truck and trailer today.

Another four boats – made by named manufacturers – had been towed up at the same place.

Two were Kolibri KM750-D rigid inflatable boats.

Life jackets used by migrants for canal crossings



The design of the do-it-yourself versions has clearly been very much based on these Ukrainian ships, but they lack the raised front needed to keep the nose of the RIB above the waves.

The Kolibri boats are also equipped with a safety warning that recommends a maximum load of 6 people or 800 kg.

But human trafficking gangs have been known to squeeze 20-30 people into their do-it-yourself versions.

About 50 migrants are believed to have managed to cross the canal today aboard two boats that were taken into Dover Marina, Kent before 05.00 in pitch black darkness.

HM Gränsstyrkan seizes boats and life jackets



The body of an asylum seeker who drowned in Wednesday’s disaster was found washed up on a beach at Sangatte, near Calais.

The discovery raised the death toll in the worst canal crossing ever. Only two survived, one Iraqi and one Somali.

It was confirmed that some of the victims were Kurds from northern Iraq.

It is believed that the boat left Loon-Plage, near Dunkirk, on Wednesday morning and sank after colliding with the ship at the border with French territorial waters.

Children are exposed to risks


Steve Reigate Daily Express)

Such an accident has long been feared in the Channel, the busiest shipping in the world.

A Mayday call made during Wednesday’s Channel tragedy and requesting urgent help from “all ships” in the area was released today.

Charles Devos, regional director of the Lifeboat Association (SNSM) in Calais, was one of the first people on the scene.

He said he dragged six bodies from the sea, including a pregnant woman, and seeing them drown was “traumatic”.

French police carry a stretcher



“I can not remember such a tragedy. It is inexplicable,” he said.

“I saw that the exploded boat had really been emptied of air. Was it a valve that came loose or hit an object? You never know but I do not think it was a collision.”

And he said, “I think it happened because of congestion. Do not forget, you think the sea is calm. The sea is not calm because it is almost always choppy.”

Mr Devos added: “It’s very, very shocking. It was a bit like the movie Titanic when you saw all these people plunging into the water, drowning, with no means of being rescued.

“Unfortunately, we could only restore the dead.”

Groups of people leaving for the UK from France


Steve Reigate Daily Express)

The British National Crime Agency (NCA) has offered its support to a French investigation to track down traffickers who arranged the fatal crossing. Five men are currently in custody in France and charged with manslaughter in connection with the disaster. Prosecutors believe the smugglers operated from Germany – driving migrants to French beaches overnight rather than risking being seen hanging around.

So far this month, 6,050 migrants have arrived in the UK in 182 boats.

And 25,772 have made the treacherous journey of 2021 compared to 8,410 in 2020. In 2019, only 1,850 took the crossing.

In a speech today, French President Emmanuel Macron appealed for extra help in stopping migrants crossing the English Channel to Britain.

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But Interior Minister Priti Patel issued an emergency message to MPs: “There is no quick fix either. This is about tackling long-term pull factors, crushing the criminal gangs that treat people as cargo and tackling supply chains.”

Human rights experts have gathered against the government’s bill on nationality and borders, which contains a number of measures to crack down on asylum attempts after the death by crossing.

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International’s UK head of refugee and migrant rights, called the bill “draconian”.

“This new policy will further aggravate the asylum system and continue to punish and exclude people seeking security,” he said.

“Working with French can work”

Analysis, by Tony Smith, former commander of the frontier force

The tragic drownings of 27 migrants outside Calais on Wednesday have prompted new calls for action.

One proposal is to set up joint British / French patrols aimed at saving lives and defeating human traffickers. But is it feasible?

Operationally, I am convinced that it is. I was Director of Ports and Borders in Canada when 9/11 happened. We agreed on a new arrangement between Canadian and US border authorities that gave officers the power to carry out cross-border operations.

Then the question was terrorism but the principle was the same.

These integrated teams worked to improve security for the benefit of communities on both sides of the border.

A similar agreement could be reached between the United Kingdom and France.

The relevant bodies on both sides could set up a joint command structure that would deploy resources both on land and at sea to catch migrants trying to cross the border illegally.

Common resources, including surveillance technology, could track and track migrants, and joint teams could be deployed immediately to capture them.

Anyone who escaped through the internet could be immediately returned to France, where they can apply for asylum if they so wish.

Politically, it is much more difficult.

An ever-increasing number of migrants are entering the EU. Those who have been refused permission to stay there simply remain without authority in the borderless Schengen area.

Those who see an opportunity to get to the UK will take it, despite the dangers. This is fertile territory for the criminal league.

To stop the boats, the French government must convince its voters that it is in their interest to do so.

Time will tell if they really want to work with us on this.

If not, I fear that the smuggling gangs will only continue to serve – and more lives will be lost.

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