TWO pals on a fishing jaunt netted more than they bargained for during a Channel trip – two boatloads of migrants and two empty dinghies.
Billy Williams and Tony Ponicelli came across one boat packed with 40 people after earlier sailing past two empty dinghies.
Plumber Billy, 42, said: “We’ve all heard about the migrant crisis and how many boats are coming over but to see four within the space of a few hours on a single fishing trip really brings it home.
“Home Secretary Priti Patel keeps saying she is going to try and stop it but if we saw four in a couple of hours then she has really got her work cut out.”
Billy, from Barfrestone, near Dover, Kent and Tony, 52, had hired the boat earlier this month to go on a Channel fishing trip after Covid had stopped them going out for more than a year.
They left Dover harbour on a clear, calm morning for a day’s fishing and within half an hour had come across one empty dinghy littered with rubbish, lifejackets, clothes and food.
Minutes later as they headed further out to sea and towards fertile fishing waters mid Channel they came across another empty dinghy where they found more debris including a Man Utd shirt.
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Then to their astonishment they saw another boat – this time packed with migrants – who started waving and shouting at them asking to be rescued.
Billy said: “We couldn’t believe it, although thinking about it after finding two empty boats it was always odds on we were going to find a full one and as we spotted this one we could see another on the horizon.
‘Who knows what would have happened’
“There were about 40 people onboard, mostly men and they were waving and shouting ‘Help’ at us but there wasn’t much we could do as if we had gone alongside we would have been swamped and we were no way big enough.
“All we could do was radio the coast guard and then we had to wait as they set a boat out to pick them up – to be fair to them they were there pretty quick so we didn’t lose that much fishing time.
“It was just such an astonishing thing to see because these boats they are in are tiny and there are ferries and container ships going up and down the Channel and they are so difficult to spot.
“The boat we saw was taking in water and they were using little buckets to bail it out with but who knows what would have happened if we hadn’t come along and found them.”
Billy added: “Despite all that we still had a good day fishing and caught loads of mackerel but sadly no cod – although we did catch some unexpected migrants as well.
“It really brings it home when you see them in these tiny boats and you can see France to one side and the white cliffs of Dover to another but four in less than a couple of hours is crazy.
“It’s obvious that much more needs to be done to try and stop these boats leaving – who knows how many have sunk out there.”
So far this year more than 23,000 people have cross from France to Britain in small boats seeking asylum.
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