Sports equipment retailer Decathlon said on Tuesday it would no longer sell canoes in northern France to prevent migrants from attempting to use them to cross to England.
“The purchase of canoes will no longer be possible” in the Decathlon stores in Calais and Grande-Synthe, near Dunkirk, “given the current context,” the retailer told AFP, confirming information from local media .
The items were not used for their original sporting purpose, but “could be used to cross the Channel,” he said.
In such cases, “people’s lives would be in danger,” the retailer explained.
The stores themselves had decided to stop selling the canoes and management had approved the decision, Decathlon said.
The canoes will continue to be available for purchase online and at other stores. Other safety equipment, such as life jackets and thermal protection will also continue to be sold in stores in Calais and Grande-Synthe.
Three migrants were reported missing on Friday after attempting to cross the Channel to Britain by canoe, as the number of crossings skyrocket.
Two canoes were found adrift off Calais on Thursday and two people were recovered from the water.
Earlier on Tuesday, French police cleared a large migrant camp that housed around a thousand people hoping to reach Britain. Tensions are high between London and Paris over the Channel crossing.
Last Thursday a record number of migrants crossed the Channel in small boats – 1,185 according to British figures – which the British government called “unacceptable”.
French Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin spoke to his British counterpart Priti Patel on Monday, but only after giving a straightforward interview in which he said Britain should “stop using us as a punch- ball in its domestic policy “.
French authorities said they carried out 10 separate operations on Tuesday in which they rescued 272 migrants trying to cross the Channel to England aboard makeshift boats, some in difficulty.
Maritime officials said they had been taken to the ports of Calais, Dunkirk and Boulogne-sur-Mer where they were taken care of by border police and firefighters.
Maritime Prefect Philippe Dutrieux said around 15,400 migrants attempted the dangerous Channel crossing between January 1 and August 31, 3,500 of whom were rescued from boats in distress and brought back to French shores.
In 2020, some 9,500 people crossed the Channel or attempted to do so, compared to 2,300 in 2019 and 600 in 2018.