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France bans sale of inflatable dinghies from Channel towns in bid to stop migrant crossings

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. 

Sports shops dotted around the French coast near the Channel have been told to stop selling the boats and kayaks amid a steady flow of migrants sailing across the waters to the UK. 

But despite the ban, people smugglers are able to get around the restrictions by ordering the inflatable vessels online and getting them delivered to their safe houses, reports The Sun

The boats and kayaks are then transported by the traffickers to points along the coast where migrants hoping to cross the Channel can pick them up. 

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought ashore from the local lifeboat at Dungeness in Kent this afternoon

Sports retailer Decathlon’s store in Calais showed on their website that boats were not for sale – but the newspaper was able to order a vessel online for £600 and get it home delivered to an address in the coastal city. 

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

It comes as the flow of migrants to Britain across the Channel slowed markedly on Tuesday after Priti Patel threatened to cancel the £54million promised to France to help their authorities tackle the crisis.

On Monday, the number of migrants crossing to the Kent coast in dinghy after dinghy is believed to have surpassed 1,000 in a single day for the first time. 

Dozens of migrants began arriving in Kent from dawn again today after crossing the Channel unhindered as people traffickers used Britain’s Indian summer and calm waters to send record numbers. 

But by 5pm today, the figure for today was only around 200 migrants. MailOnline has asked the Home Office to comment on why the numbers appear down.

A border force worker carries a child among a group of migrants brought into Dover this morning after crossing from France

A border force worker carries a child among a group of migrants brought into Dover this morning after crossing from France

It came as Priti Patel said she was ready to withhold the £54million promised to France to block migrant crossings because boat-after-boat continues to land in Kent every day. 

The Home Secretary met Conservative MPs last night and blamed the French for the significant numbers of people coming across the Channel, claiming she was prepared to pull the funding that was pledged less than two months ago if they do not stop three in four crossings by the end of the month, The Times reports. 

But France has hit back at the Home Secretary over her threat to withhold the £54million she pledged.

The Ministry of the Interior told Patel that going back on the pledge would seriously damage efforts to limit the illegal trips.

And it warned that attempting to send would-be refugees straight back to France would be dangerous and break international law, after Tory MPs urged her to take the dramatic step to discourage others from taking the same route.

Meanwhile, Calais MP 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.’

A group of people thought to be migrants are escorted to shore in Kingsdown, Kent, after being intercepted by an RNLI crew following a small boat incident in the Channel

A group of people thought to be migrants are escorted to shore in Kingsdown, Kent, after being intercepted by an RNLI crew following a small boat incident in the Channel

Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin is travelling to London today and is set to have a showdown with Miss Patel about how best to tackle the record number of illegal crossings. More than 13,000 have arrived in the UK by boat this year.  

Crossings began at dawn on Tuesday, with boats arriving in Dover while the RNLI was seen towing another ashore further east in Kingsdown and at Dungeness.  

On Tuesday morning a dinghy carrying around 30 migrants was reportedly been intercepted by Border Force officials, according to observers. The vessel with dozens of people including children on board was escorted to Dover Marina in Kent today. 

And around an hour later 31 migrants landed in Kingsdown, between Dover and Deal.  Another 30 migrants also arrived in Dungeness this afternoon.

Then just under 60 people arrived at Dover Port after being intercepted by Border Force vessels this afternoon. Around 50 of them were brought into the port on patrol boat Hunter at just before 3pm.

Then a Border Force small boat carrying a group of seven migrants pulled into the port shortly after, escorted by two jet skis. Meanwhile observers reported 15 migrants landing on a beach in Dungeness this afternoon. 

People traffickers are thought to be taking advantage of the good weather to embark on crossings with flat calm seas. But conditions are expected to change later in the week making crossings more treacherous.  

The Home Office has still yet to confirm how many people arrived from France on Monday. It said it would release the official figures after all the migrants had been processed.  

MPs have already questioned why the UK has given yet more money to Paris when so many people are still making the dangerous journey.

Monday’s estimated total could smash the record of 828 crossings in a single day, set on August 21 – the last time migrants successfully crossed to Britain.

A spell of poor weather halted attempts, before 158 asylum seekers, including children, reached the UK across the world’s busiest shipping lane on Sunday.

However on Monday, with calm seas and temperatures around Dover reaching 24C, the smugglers are thought to have tried to overwhelm Channel defences by launching as many boats as possible.

Witnesses described seeing a number of large dinghies land across the south coast throughout the day, with other groups intercepted by lifeboats and brought ashore. The crossings – and the money given to the French – will heap further embarrassment on Patel, who has repeatedly vowed to close the deadly smuggling route.

Around 13,000 have already crossed the Channel to reach Britain this year – eclipsing the 8,417 who made the journey in the whole of 2020. The Home Office has previously pledged to make the journey ‘unviable’. 

On Monday it said it could not ‘confirm nor deny’, the reported record number of crossings. Two dinghies were seen landing at Dungeness, Kent, containing around 60 people.

The Dungeness RNLI lifeboat also brought in more than 30 to the beach, including at least one toddler and a number of children. Some migrants, who travelled in families with children, gave thumbs-up signs to photographers as they were escorted by Border Force officials to be processed.

One boat was found abandoned near Dungeness Power Station surrounded by lifejackets, indicating there are more who will not be officially counted among the total.

A lifeboat in Hastings, East Sussex, helped a group of more than 30 ashore. Witnesses also reported that at least 50 asylum seekers had been brought into Dover marina by a Border Force cutter after being intercepted.

There were even reports of four men canoeing in a dinghy that was so overloaded that it was partly submerged.

Traffickers in France are likely to be making a final push before the unpredictable weather of autumn.

As many as 300 more migrants were seen in the dunes near Dunkirk, waiting for boats bound for the UK on Monday.

Alp Mehmet, chairman of Migrationwatch, said: ‘For as long as the route is successful, the numbers are simply going to go up. If people can come to the UK on a dinghy and stay here there is too much money to be made by traffickers for them to stop. Currently, there is nothing to discourage them. We have got to show coming across illegally in a dinghy won’t work. At the moment, it is working.’


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