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

8 September 2021, 06:46 | Updated: 8 September 2021, 06:50

A group of migrants are brought ashore from the Dungeness lifeboat in Dungeness, Kent, after being picked-up following a small boat incident in the Channel.
A group of migrants are brought ashore from the Dungeness lifeboat in Dungeness, Kent, after being picked-up following a small boat incident in the Channel. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

France has been forced to ban the sale of inflatable dinghies from Channel towns in a bid to try to end a surge in migrant crossings.

The move comes 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.

As well as the move to ban the sale of boats, police patrols have also been increased around the French coast to prevent outboard motor thefts.

But the Sun reports people smugglers are getting round the ban by ordering boats online and having them delivered to safe houses.

They inflatables and kayaks are then taken to rendezvous points for migrants to use in crossing attempts.

On Tuesday, the website of sports retailer Decathlon’s Calais store showed boats were unavailable for sale. But reporters were able to order one online for £600 for a home delivery in Calais, according to the Sun.

Meanwhile, it is also possible to order an inflatable boat on Amazon to be delivered to addresses in Calais.

In response to the Home Secretary's threats, Calais politician Pierre-Henri Dumont said: “We will not be answering to blackmail.

“Quite simply if the money is pulled then the resources will drop and the migrants will increase.”

Despite the inherent dangers of taking to the Dover Strait in inflatable boats, crossings continued on Tuesday after some 785 migrants were believed to have been intercepted by UK authorities making the trip on Monday.

It comes as Home Secretary Priti Patel is expected to discuss the matter with her French counterpart Gerald Darmanin at the three-day G7 interior ministers' meeting in London.

At around 2.30pm, a lifeboat carrying around a dozen people landed at Dungeness, where they were met by immigration staff and police.

One woman, wearing a black jacket and face mask, gingerly descended a ladder from the lifeboat helped by RNLI volunteers.

She told the PA news agency she had come from Iran, as she was guided ashore.

Speaking as he walked up the shingle towards the lifeboat station, one young man claimed he was 17 years old.

The teenager added he was happy to be in the UK and that he had come from Eritrea.

Later at around 4.40pm, about 50 people arrived at Dungeness aboard the all-weather lifeboat.

As they were guided safely ashore, several paused and knelt on the shingle, raising their arms in prayer or celebration after reaching dry land.

Among the arrivals were two babies being carried in the arms of adults.

Monday's tally of 785 people attempting to reach the UK is second highest daily total of the year, following the single-day record of 828 people set last month.

It is understand French authorities also intercepted 14 crossings on Monday, preventing 378 people from reaching the UK's shores.