A Dover fishing skipper told the Telegraph the migrant boat went down during one of the calmest days at sea for some time, with the flimsy boat likely to have split under the weight of its desperate passenger, reports our Senior Reporter Patrick Sawer.
Matt Cocker, who was out in the channel on his vessel Portia at the time, said French vessels appeared not to have responded to Mayday calls from their own coastguard, despite the incident taking place in French waters.
He said: “The French coastguard raised the alarm at around 1pm, asking for assistance in the rescue of a boat with around 15 on board and more in the water in the north east shipping lane, 7 miles off Calais, which the French control.
“There were around 15/20 big French commercial fishing vessels off Calais at the time, but they didn’t respond. There seemed to be little by way of a rescue operation from the French.”
By contrast, vessels from HM Coastguard at Dover, along with the Border Force’s vessel BF Hurricane, responded to the emergency alert and arrived at the scene in around 45 minutes.
Mr Cocker said it was likely the migrant’s boat had been a “cheap and flimsy” one which simply gave way.
“It was absolutely flat, with probably about 30 migrant boats taking advantage of the best weather for days to cross.
“But the traffickers put them in cheap plastic inflatables. They’re not proper boats.
“They overload them and they split and deflate and the people end up in the water. They often don’t have life jackets. They don’t stand a chance.”
He added: “They often don’t even have proper motors. The traffickers are charging £3-5,000 each with 20 on board so they are really maximising their profits.”