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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

French police ‘stood by and watched’ migrants hours before deadly Channel crossing

French police watched people smugglers putting to sea with an extra-large dinghy just hours before more than 30 migrants drowned in the Channel.

A group of more than 40 migrants was photographed on Tuesday carrying a 30ft inflatable dinghy on the northern French coast near Wimereux, as French police appeared to look on and do nothing.

The migrants, including at least five children, were spotted going into the water in the early hours of the morning. Yards away was a French police car with at least two officers inside who appeared to do nothing, despite the French government vowing that forces would be in action “night and day” to stop the crossings.

The picture was taken before French patrol vessels found corpses in the water off the port of Calais after a migrant vessel sank. At least 33 people died in the worst single loss of life of migrants crossing the Channel in recent times, including five woman and one young girl.

After the large boat was seen going into the water at Wimereux, Natalie Elphicke, Tory MP for Dover, said the French were “playing us for fools”.

“It’s infuriating to see pictures of the French authorities seemingly standing by and just watching while migrants pile into small boats and launch themselves into the water,” she said.

“The French said they would take action, but you have to wonder if they are just playing us for fools.” 

After hearing of the deaths – which may have been from another vessel – Ms Elphicke said: “This is an absolute tragedy. It underlines why saving lives at sea starts by stopping the boats entering the water in the first place.

“As winter is approaching the seas will get rougher, the water colder, the risk of even more lives tragically being lost greater.

“That’s why stopping these dangerous crossings is the humanitarian and right thing to do.”

British officials acknowledge that people smugglers’ violence against the French is currently “off the scale,” with small numbers of French police officers finding it difficult to confront the numbers of migrants.

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