Migrant crisis: Sailors told to 'stand off and report' rather than save asylum-seekers in English Channel

The new Nationality and Borders bill will see sailors prosecuted for rescuing migrants stranded at sea

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The Royal Yacht Association (RYA) has said to its members they mustn't rescue migrants stranded at sea amid concerns they may face prosecution and jail on people smuggling charges.

The RYA has given advise to its sailors to “stand off and report” migrants attempting to cross the Channel, rather than attempt to rescue them.

This comes as legislation is being drafted that would prosecute sailors if they save asylum seekers from drowning in the harsh seas.

This row is based around a clause in the new Nationality and Borders Bill from the Home Office, which strengthens sentences for people smugglers attempting to get people into the UK from 14 years to life behind bars.

The law had previously been limited to prosecutions of paid people smugglers, however under the new changes sailors will be criminalised if they rescue an asylum seeker or migrant and help them to Dover.

RYA’s cruising manager, Stuart Carruthers said: “Our advice is to be very careful going to the rescue. You are not under any obligation to do it but you are under an obligation to report it and explain why you are standing off. You are not required to put yourself in danger.

“It sounds very harsh, but you could have a massive bureaucratic problem and be tied up in bringing illegal immigrants into the country. Our advice is to stand off and report.”

“It potentially criminalises people for trying to save life and putting them on a British shore. That can’t be right,” he said.

Nearly 26,000 migrants have made it to the UK this year so far, three times the 2020 figure. The French government yesterday announced that it would be shelling out £10 million on high-speed vessels, 4x4's and quad bikes to catch migrants on their beaches.