EXCLUSIVE - Channel migrants risking their lives with makeshift lifejackets

GB News has seen evidence that migrants are risking their lives, using tyre inner-tubes as makeshift life jackets

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GB News has seen evidence that Channel migrants are taking significant risks with their lives, by using tyre inner-tubes as makeshift life jackets.

A GB News camera crew filmed one abandoned boat full of inner-tubes, which one source said were “absolutely no substitute for proper life-preserving equipment.”

The discovery comes as authorities confirm more than 1,300 people have crossed the English Channel in 24 small boats in the past two days.

Official figures from the Ministry of Defence reveal that 884 people crossed yesterday in 17 inflatables.

GB News has seen evidence that Channel migrants are taking significant risks with their lives, by using tyre inner-tubes as makeshift life jackets.
GB News has seen evidence that Channel migrants are taking significant risks with their lives, by using tyre inner-tubes as makeshift life jackets.

The total number of migrants who have crossed the Channel so far this year now stands at 43,448.

The number who made it to the UK in the whole of 2021 was 28,526.

The abandoned boat GB News discovered was drifting around 8 miles off the coast of Dover.

Those onboard had been transferred to a Border Force vessel a short time earlier.

As the team got closer to the migrant inflatable, they saw dozens of tyre inner-tubes lying in the well of the vessel.

A source confirmed the rubber tubes were being used as makeshift life jackets.

The discovery is unusual, as people smuggling gangs have become more sophisticated in their operations of late, and now provide life jackets as standard issue on their small boats.

Our source said: “A year or two ago, you used to see people smugglers using rubber inner-tubes on occasions as a substitute for life preservers because the criminal gangs weren’t that sophisticated then.

“They would use inner-tubes or chunks of polystyrene.

“But in the last year in particular, the organised crime groups have well sourced supply lines, giving them access to thousands of life jackets on a regular basis.”

A Reuters camera crew also saw evidence that inner-tubes were being use on small boats, as they filmed an inflatable which French police had intercepted on a beach near Sangatte.

Inside the boat were inner-tubes and nearby a group of migrants could be seen walking away back up the beach, none wearing life jackets.

GB News has seen evidence that Channel migrants are taking significant risks with their lives, by using tyre inner-tubes as makeshift life jackets.
GB News has seen evidence that Channel migrants are taking significant risks with their lives, by using tyre inner-tubes as makeshift life jackets.

Our source suggested that criminal gangs may have been forced to resort to the use of inner-tubes again because of an interruption in their supply lines, perhaps due to police enforcement activity.

Whatever the reason, the source said authorities would be deeply concerned by the development.

“Just over a year ago, we saw 27 people drown in the Channel when their small boat deflated. A year on, it’s clear the criminal gangs are taking big risks with the lives of migrants again.

“These inner-tubes are absolutely no substitute for proper life preserving equipment.

“A life jacket is securely fastened. Trying to cling on to rubber tyres in freezing water is extremely difficult. People don’t understand how enormously difficult it is to maintain the strength to hold on to things in very cold water.”

More small boats have been sighted in the English Channel today, the third day in a row.

Just after 2:30am the Border Force vessel Volunteer arrived at Dover harbour with 60 migrants on board.

Since then, UK and French authorities have been responding to multiple reports of small boats spotted attempting the crossing.