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France: Decathlon halts canoe sales to curb migrant crossings

The decision was made as the canoes were not being used for their intended purpose, and lives were at risk, the sports equipment retailer said.

File image of a Decathlon store. (Niviere David/abaca/picture alliance)

Sports shop Decathlon has announced it will no longer sell canoes in northern France to help put a stop to migrants desperately trying to cross the English Channel, it was reported on Tuesday.

“The purchase of canoes will no longer be possible” in retail outlets in Calais and Grande-Synthe, near Dunkirk, “given the current context,” Decathlon told news agency AFP, confirming French media reports that emerged earlier on Tuesday.

‘Lives endangered’ Decathlon says

The decision was made as the canoes were not being used for their intended purpose, and lives were at risk, the sports equipment retailer said.

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“People’s lives” have been “endangered,” by their inappropriate use, Decathlon said.

According to the retailer, the stores in the north of the country made the decision themselves to stop selling the canoes and Decathlon management had agreed with their reasoning.

The canoes will continue to be available online and in stores elsewhere in France. Other safety equipment, such as life-jackets and thermal protection, will still be sold in the Calais and Grande-Synthe outlets.

Last Friday, three migrants were reported missing after trying to cross the channel using canoes. This came 24 hours after two canoes were found adrift off Calais, with two individuals rescued from the water.

Migrant crossings continue to soar

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A record number of migrants crossed the channel in small boats last Thursday — 1,185 according to figures in the UK — which the British government said was “unacceptable.”

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin spoke to his British counterpart Priti Patel on Monday, but only after giving an interview in which he said Britain should “stop using us as a punch-ball in their domestic politics.”

In the whole of 2020, some 9,500 people made the hazardous journey across the English Channel, or at least attempted to do so, compared to 2,300 in 2019 and 600 in 2018.

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This year’s numbers have soared further still, despite the risks. By the end of August, that figure had already reached 15,000 for 2021.

First published on: 17-11-2021 at 07:21:37 pm
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