Calais Decathlon halts kayak sales after products used by migrants for Channel crossings

France ‘don’t want to help out’ with migrants says Saunders

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The sporting apparel brand chose to withdraw the single-person boats following concerns that migrants in the French city may be putting themselves at risk. It comes as the number of migrants crossing the Channel reached a new record last Thursday.

The Home Office said at the time the number of crossings was “unacceptable”.

A Government spokesperson added that Home Secretary Priti Patel was talking to her French counterpart about the matter.

On the same day (November 11) that it was recorded that 1,185 individuals had arrived in the UK after crossing the channel, French publication La Voix du Nord noted that three migrants had gone missing at sea after attempting the crossing in a kayak.

The French paper said that a few weeks beforehand, seven people had also gone missing off the coast of Calais, Dunkirk and Boulogne-sur-Mer.

Another report cited migrants in Calais buying life jackets, oars or lightweight boats from Decathlon.

It added that earlier this month, a local firefighter who regularly rescues migrants in distress posted online that he was “shocked” after seeing migrants buying “inflatable canoes and vests” in the same store.

Decathlon said that the kayaks had been removed from shelves in Calais and Grande-Synthe – a suburb of Dunkirk – last Friday (November 12).

In a statement to French media, the brand said: “The recent increase in crossing attempts has indeed led our Decathlon Calais teams to question the position to be taken on the sale of products that can be diverted from their sporting use and serve as boats to cross the Channel.

“In consultation with the teams, we will now ensure not to allow the purchase of boats – including kayaks – which could endanger the lives of people using it as part of a crossing.”

It continued: “We are committed to never putting our customers at risk in the use of our products, whatever the circumstances.”

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Decathlon Calais will however continue to sell safety equipment, including vests, oars and thermal protection.

Last Thursday’s record brings the total number of migrants to reach UK shores in 2021 to more than 23,500, according to data collated by PA.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson said on Monday that “more needs to be done”.

They noted that 18,000 crossings had been prevented so far this year.

The Prime Minister urged the French to join forces with British ministers to “resolve this issue”, they said.

They continued: “We continue to see France as a close ally of the UK.

“We do want to work constructively to resolve this issue.

“We are providing funding to the French to allow them to increase surveillance, to allow them to increase the police presence that is there to prevent these crossings taking place.

“Through that investment we have seen stoppages increase and that is to be welcomed but clearly with the level of crossings we are seeing per day more needs to be done.”

A senior minister in Emmanuel Macron’s administration yesterday accused the Government of treating France as a “punch-ball”.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin claimed that “Britain is in no position to be giving lessons to us” on the migrant crisis.

He said that the UK Government “should stop using us as a punch-ball in their domestic politics”.

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