French police cut off small boats and migrants with pepper spray amid increased travel

LONDON: French police were filmed by British film crews cutting small inflatable boats used by migrants to cross the English Channel, with some officers pepper spraying migrants as they attempted to leave France’s northern coast.

The group of migrants, which included Iraqi Kurds and Albanians, were attempting to launch a dinghy from a beach in Dunkirk when a Channel 4 News camera captured police slashing their boat.

The migrants had to give up their efforts due to damage to the boat, with some officers deploying pepper spray on them.

Cameras captured the group, made up of mostly men, sprinting briskly down the beach in the morning carrying the black canoe.

Most of them wore life jackets, but some did not, despite the many deaths that occurred during the perilous journey.

French police officers stopped the group of men in their tracks as they ran towards the water.

“So we have about 40 or 50 people,” Channel 4 News reporter Paraic O’Brien said as his team’s cameras captured the unfolding.

“The police buggy has just arrived to try to stop them,” he added, saying that the police intervened.

Four French border patrol agents were filmed jumping from their buggies onto the sand, blocking the migrants carrying the canoe.

In the footage, one of the officers cuts the small boat, causing a loud banging noise as the blade breaks the inflatable rib, causing it to deflate rapidly.

One of the migrants carrying the boat tries to prevent the policeman from slashing the boat, and is sprayed with pepper spray at close range, forcing him to flee.

The group of migrants then fled.

“A large group of migrants was confronted by three French police officers. We were told that (a) drone, funded by the UK, first detected the group,” O’Brien said after the incident.

“After the police cut the canoe with a knife, one of the migrants tried to stop them from cutting it again – that’s when the pepper spray came out.”

More than 23,000 people have crossed the Channel this year, with August becoming the busiest month since records began in 2018, with 6,887 people making the trip so far this month.

Despite the perilous conditions and the interventions of French police, some 400 migrants made the 21-mile journey across the strait on Thursday.

French police are reportedly struggling to deal with the “flash-mob way” of migrants suddenly rushing into the water, the Daily Mail reported, adding that the groups sometimes appear in the hundreds, overwhelming authorities.

The newspaper said the current record numbers were likely due to French police taking their summer vacation, providing more opportunities for migrants to push for water and avoid detection, adding that weather conditions had improved in recent weeks, allowing smuggling gangs to accommodate thousands of waiting customers.

Earnest A. Martinez