French police accused of shooting migrants in boats trying to cross English Channel

2 October 2021, 12:48

French police have been accused of shooting migrant boats trying to cross the English Channel.
French police have been accused of shooting migrant boats trying to cross the English Channel. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

Police in France have been accused of shooting rubber bullets at migrants attempting to cross the English Channel in small boats.

The shooting allegedly took place on September 22 on a Dunkirk beach five miles from an area where hundreds of migrants live in camps among the woods.

An investigation by French national police authorities was under way last night into the incident - which is the first known case of gun tactics to stop a migrant boat launch, it has been reported.

One migrant who recounted the shooting from the camp, described his friend being shot at "point black range".

Read more: 'Extreme, illegal, cowardly': Patel's 'pushback' tactics for migrant boats condemned

Read more: France and UK clash over ‘dangerous and illegal' plans to block migrant crossings

"When the police saw us, they shouted stop. We stopped and they still shot us. Then we ran away as best we could," the migrant told The Daily Mail.

The open fire is alleged to have occurred following an altercation between the group of Iranian Kurds and a French patrol unit working to prevent crossings at the beach.

Two Iranian Kurds hit by the bullets were taken to hospital, according to reports.

One man, who suffered a fractured leg, remains in Dunkirk Central Hospital. The other is now being treated as an outpatient for a broken hand.

Investigations by French national police authorities into the incident are ongoing.

The incident comes just weeks after the country was forced to ban the sale of inflatable dinghies from Channel towns in a bid to try to end a surge in migrant crossings.

Read more: France bans sale of inflatable boats from Channel ports in bid to stop migrant crossings

The move, put into place at the beginning of September, came just hours after Home Secretary Priti Patel threatened to withhold £54m promised to France for stopping migrant crossings as a record number hit UK shores in a day.

Police patrols have also been increased around the French coast to prevent outboard motor thefts.

Under new "pushback tactics", Priti Patel has authorised Border Force to block migrant boats crossing the English Channel.

The special sanctions will be used for "limited circumstances" on bigger migrant boats, amid conflict between the two countries over the crisis.

France's Interior Minister Gerard Darminin claims the pushback policy would be "contrary to international law", adding that the "posturing" would damage the cooperation between them.

It comes after record numbers continue to make the treacherous journey across the English Channel, with thousands arriving on British soil in the last month.