Written by 12:31 pm Crossing Borders, Highlighted side bottom

French police taking increasingly aggressive action against migrant boats

The French police are taking increasingly aggressive action against migrants who want to cross the Channel in boats. This is evident from a joint study by various international media. Patrol boats carry out dangerous maneuvers that endanger the lives of the migrants, they write.

The research collective Lighthouse Reports, together with Le Monde, Der Spiegel and The Observer, investigated French activities on the Channel for months. Using video footage, leaked documents and statements from eyewitnesses, border guards and high-ranking officials, they were able to document various situations in which French police carried out dangerous maneuvers near boats carrying migrants and refugees.

For example, images show that a French patrol boat in the port of Dunkirk sails quickly around a migrant boat several times, with the intention of making waves and filling the boat with water. As a result, the migrants have to return to mainland France. In the video in question, about 25 people are in the boat.

In other images, a police boat sails right next to a boat with migrants and the occupants are threatened with a large can of pepper spray. There are also testimonies of patrol boats ramming migrant boats and rubber boats being punctured with knives by police, forcing the occupants to swim back to shore. An Indian migrant, among others, testifies about this. “We had to swim for 10 minutes, we almost died.”

Pushbacks are prohibited

Experts speaking to the three media point out that the French police are clearly endangering the lives of migrants and refugees in this way and that these practices could cause several deaths and injuries. Sources within the British Border Guard also point to this. “I can’t believe any sailor could tolerate that,” a source told The Observer.

Officially it is forbidden to intercept boats that are already at sea, the so-called ‘pushbacks’. The French police have repeatedly refused to do so in the past, even when they were asked by the United Kingdom to intercept the boats so that they would not reach the UK. The French police then argued that this was contrary to maritime law. She only brought migrants and refugees back to mainland France as part of a rescue operation.

British money

But since a number of British-French agreements, in which the British government gave France hundreds of millions of euros, the French police appear to be taking an increasingly aggressive attitude at sea. The number of incidents is said to have increased, especially since the summer of 2023. Sources within the French Ministry of the Interior call the pressure from the United Kingdom for action “constant” and “intense”.

Officially, the British money is intended to carry out more patrols on the coast and to stop boats there. But according to the investigation by the three media, at least 1 patrol boat shown in the images was also purchased with British money.

The French police admit that they once intervened and caused a boat to fill with water by making waves with a patrol boat. She said she did this to prevent the boat from leaving the harbour. But the police contradict the testimonies about puncturing rubber boats.

Last modified: June 8, 2024