Police foil migrants looking to cross Channel by puncturing dinghy

Police foil migrants looking to cross Channel by puncturing dinghy

French police foil migrants looking to sneak across the Channel by puncturing their dinghy with a KNIFE and smashing its outboard motor

  • It was just after sunset on Saturday in Gravelines, between Calais and Dunkirk
  • Migrants emerged from the sand dunes and made a dash for the water
  • They were intercepted by a police car which raced across the beach
  • More than 18,000 have made it across the Channel to the UK this year alone

This is the dramatic moment French police foiled an attempted Channel crossing by a group of around 45 migrants by puncturing the boat and smashing up its engine.

Just after sunset on Saturday evening in the sleepy holiday resort of Gravelines, between Calais and Dunkirk, migrants wearing red life vests emerged from the sand dunes and made a dash for the water.

Several women and men carried young children in their arms while a large group of mostly young men followed behind, hauling a black dinghy above their heads. But they were intercepted by a police car which raced across the beach, with officers bursting out to puncture the dinghy with a knife as the migrants scattered.

One fell to his knees with his hands covering his face as an officer appeared to use pepper spray. Police then smashed the outboard engine to pieces with a hammer and bemused holidaymakers looked on as the migrants walked dejectedly back to the dunes. No arrests were made.

This is the dramatic moment French police foiled an attempted Channel crossing by a group of around 45 migrants by puncturing the boat and smashing up its engine

Just after sunset on Saturday evening in the sleepy holiday resort of Gravelines, between Calais and Dunkirk, migrants wearing red life vests emerged from the sand dunes and made a dash for the water

The migrants were intercepted by a police car which raced across the beach, with officers bursting out to puncture the dinghy with a knife as the migrants scattered

Despite their elation, it came on a day when 10 small boats carrying 337 migrants successfully launched from the French coast and made it to the UK – with the total number this year alone now surpassing 18,000, according to Ministry of Defence figures.

The grim milestone was broken just five days after 696 people were rescued by Border Force and brought to shore last Monday, the busiest day for Channel crossings so far this year.

It is likely crossings will continue this week, with the Met Office predicting warm weather and calm winds on the south coast.

The location at Gravelines has been used by at least five smuggling gangs in recent months who are seemingly becoming ever-more brazen by attempting dangerous night crossings.

Elia Carpentier, 20, who works in the tourist office on the beachfront, told how she had seen a boat full of migrants leave the beach at 7pm on Friday.

‘I was really surprised because normally they leave when the sun goes down or at dawn,’ she said.

An inflatable craft carrying migrants crosses the shipping lane in the English Channel towards the white cliffs at Dover earlier this month. the total number this year alone now surpasses 18,000, according to Ministry of Defence figures

‘The boat waited for them at the edge of the water. I’m not sure how many got on but there were men, women and children in the group.’

The French police operation was the culmination of a tense, three-hour-long game of cat-and-mouse between officers and the migrants hiding in the scrubland behind the dunes.

From 6.30pm until sunset, a reporter and photographer from the Daily Mail lay in the sand at the water’s edge, taking cover behind a pair of French bird hunters.

From that vantage point, it was possible to observe through binoculars two officers constantly monitoring a group of 18 young male migrants who kept moving through the scrubland.

Miss Carpentier, 20, who lives next to the beach at Gravelines, said it was an open secret where the migrants hid before attempting to cross the Channel.

‘At the far end of the beach there is a campsite and beyond that is a forest,’ she said.

‘They set up camp there for one or two nights before waiting for a boat. They just leave their stuff – I see it when I walk my dog.’

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