UK ‘migrant taxi service’ made Channel tragedy inevitable, says skipper who rescued stricken migrants
Raymond Strachan told GB News British authorities have been acting as a 'migrant taxi service' encouraging ever increasing numbers of people to make the journey
The skipper of the fishing boat which helped rescue dozens of migrants from the English Channel last week, has angrily hit out at UK immigration policy for making the tragedy "inevitable".
Raymond Strachan told GB News British authorities have been acting as a "migrant taxi service" encouraging ever increasing numbers of people to make the journey.
In his first full interview since his 6-man crew pulled 31 migrants from the freezing waters, the skipper said they often see migrant boats making the dangerous crossing.
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Last January, his scallop boat had to come to the aid of three small migrant boats in the Channel.
In one incident, five people were crammed into a tiny inflatable with no outboard motor.
"It was unbelievable." He said.
"They were paddling across the busy shipping lane, and not a single one of them had a life jacket."
The scallop boat captain said he was convinced the policy of simply escorting the small boats into UK waters, where they are then picked up by authorities, was acting as a lure.
"Listen, this is what's happening every time. I see it every time we are fishing that area in nice weather. What's happening is, sometimes they're getting an escort across the Channel.
"I see the French patrol boat coming, escorting them across the Channel to the UK sector. And once they get to the UK sector, the French patrol boats call up the UK coastguards, and ask the UK coastguard to send patrol boats.
"The coastguard sends the patrol boats to take the dinghies and the migrants to the UK. It's a free taxi service."
Raymond Strachan said that he had no choice but to intervene last Wednesday to help people in imminent danger of death. But he told GB News he disagrees with the general policy of effectively providing a "migrant taxi service."
"It doesn't matter your political views about the migrant crisis, when you see people in the water, screaming, shouting, begging for their life. If you've any compassion at all, then human nature kicks in and the thing to do is rescue people, and that's what we did."
In the early hours of last Wednesday morning, the scallop trawler Arcturus was fishing about 8 miles off the Kent coast when the crew heard panicked cries for help in the dark.
"It was very fortunate we were close by." Raymond said.
"If we weren't in the area, there would have been upwards of 45 fatalities."
The skipper said, almost immediately after hearing the cries for help, it was obvious they were facing a major emergency.
"The dinghy was so close to us, that we had a migrant hanging off our fishing wire.
"We got him alongside the boat. I started pulling up my fishing gear and then by that time, there was about five or six migrants hanging off the side of the boat.
"We pulled them aboard the boat. It's not an easy task, trying to pull a panicking person out of the water when they're fully clothed and soaking wet.
"We must have pulled aboard about eleven people, and then when the other migrants saw they were getting rescued, they jumped into the water to swim towards our boat."
At one point, Raymond said they lost the migrant boat in the darkness, but he managed to steer his scallop trawler back towards the sound of the cries for help.
"We managed to tie their boat alongside ours, but there was a lot of confusion and migrants crawling over each other to get to the Arcturus."
Captain Strachan said it was at that point he noticed there was no floor on the migrant boat, that it had given way and some people were in the water in the middle of the dinghy.
He said the first rescue vessel to reach the scene was the Dungeness lifeboat, which was able to take hold of the dinghy and take a small number of remaining migrants onboard the lifeboat.
For hours afterwards, several lifeboats, Border Force vessels and the Royal Navy, along with Coastguard helicopters, conducted a huge air and sea search operation.
Four migrants were later confirmed to have died. Up to four more are missing, presumed dead.
On Sunday, Kent police announced that a man had been charged in connection with the tragedy.
Ibrahim Bah, of no fixed address, is charged with facilitating illegal immigration.
Wednesday's deaths were the first significant loss of life in the Channel since 27 migrants died after their small boat deflated half way across from France to the UK in November last year.
Raymond Strachan said, unless the UK government changes its approach to the crisis, there will be more loss of life.
"It's not the first and it won't be the last. They'll keep coming. Even if there's a risk of drowning, they'll keep coming.
"We were fishing that area last Sunday, and I saw five successful crossings.
"And you get the UK government saying they're going to send patrol boats out to stop the crossings.
"Well, I see the patrol boats there, but I just see them acting as a taxi service, that's what it is.
"And it won't stop, the government's got to change their immigration policy. It's getting out of hand now."
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