French police use 'aggressive' tactics against migrant boats: Footage

People thought to be migrants who undertook the crossing from France in small boats and were picked up in the Channel, arrive to be disembarked from a small transfer boat.
People thought to be migrants who undertook the crossing from France in small boats and were picked up in the Channel, arrive to be disembarked from a small transfer boat. Copyright Matt Dunham/The AP
Copyright Matt Dunham/The AP
By Euronews with AP
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Images have emerged showing French police using "aggressive tactics" in attempts to deter migrant boats from reaching the United Kingdom.

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Video footage has surfaced showing French police employing what has been labelled as "aggressive tactics" in attempts to deter migrant boats from crossing the English Channel.

The footage, obtained and released by Lighthouse Reports in collaboration with Le Monde, Der Spiegel and The Observer, shows various cases of heavy-handed, potentially dangerous, tactics used by authorities in France. 

In one video, a police boat encircles a dinghy carrying individuals wearing life jackets, creating waves as it manoeuvres. Passengers of the dingy are then filmed struggling to remove water flooding their boat. 

A separate video captures a police boat navigating close to a migrant boat, with an officer allegedly brandishing pepper spray at those onboard. 

Lighthouse Reports, in its investigation, claims to have acquired footage, documents, and witness testimonies illustrating the use of "aggressive methods" by French police.

Border Force officers investigate small boats used by people thought to be migrants on the quayside following a number of small boat incidents in the Channel March 21, 2024
Border Force officers investigate small boats used by people thought to be migrants on the quayside following a number of small boat incidents in the Channel March 21, 2024Gareth Fuller/PA

Kevin Saunders, former Chief Immigration Officer at UK Border Force, told local media that while the footage may appear concerning, it was likely aimed at preventing potential tragedies. He emphasised the need for action to avoid the risk of boats sinking.

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Refugee and Migrant Rights Director at Amnesty International UK, urged for proactive measures to help stop the problem at the root and avoid migrants making such dangerous journeys. 

It was important to provide safe asylum procedures rather than solely focusing on intercepting boats, he claimed. 

According to preliminary figures from the British government, approximately 30,000 crossings were recorded across the English Channel last year, representing a decrease of over a third from the previous year's figure.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has prioritised "stopping the boats" as part of his government's immigration strategy, which includes implementing stricter immigration laws to deter migrant flows across the channel.

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