Retailer halts kayak sales in northern France to deter migrant crossings

Police officers walk past a damaged dinghy used by migrants as they patrol along the Slack dunes in Wimereux, France, September 16, 2021. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo

PARIS, Nov 17 (Reuters) - French sporting goods retailer Decathlon has stopped selling kayaks and other small boats in four of its northern stores close to the Channel coast to prevent migrants buying them for an attempt to reach Britain.

The move comes after a surge this month in the number of migrants making the perilous sea journey from France to Britain across some of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

Decathlon said it was removing all dinghies and kayaks from its stores in Calais, Grande-Synthe, Boulogne-sur-Mer and Le Touquet. The towns include launching points used by migrants, where Britain can be seen from the French shore on a clear day.

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"We are committed to never putting our customers at risk with the use of our products under any circumstances," the retail chain said in a statement.

Life-saving products such as life jackets will remain available in all its stores, the company said.

Hundreds of migrants have taken advantage of benign sea conditions this month to attempt the crossing, often in over-loaded inflatable dinghies but also on occasion canoes and jet skis.

The British government has expressed renewed frustration at the numbers reaching England's southern shores and demanded France do more to halt the clandestine crossings in poorly equipped boats that are unfit for navigation at open sea.

The French coastguard in the area said on Tuesday it had rescued 272 people the previous night.

Decathlon is a part of the conglomerate built around food retailer Auchan, owned by the billionaire Mulliez family.

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Reporting by Tassilo Hummel Editing by Richard Lough and Peter Graff

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