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CRIME

Row as minister calls for cannabis ban to end

Housing minister Cecile Duflot says she wants to decriminalise cannabis in France - a move that has angered her ministerial colleagues.

“Cannabis is like alcohol, tabacco, we need to have similar public health and prevention policies that target young people,” Duflot said during a joint interview with radio RMC and TV channel BFMTV. Duflot says she wanted to decriminalise cannabis “to reduce trafficking and related violence”.

Duflot’s colleagues gave her statement a cool reception. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault insists the government “hadn’t said anything on this topic.”

The French press are reporting that Interior Minister Manuel Valls is opposed to decriminalising cannabis. 

Duflot is also the leader of the French green party Europe Ecologie-Les Verts and admits she disagrees with the current government.  

Duflot argued that decriminalising cannabis in France would reduce drug consumption. “I’m not trying to encourage people to smoke,” says Duflot, “but it’s undeniable that French youths smoke more cannabis than Dutch youths because we don’t have effective health policies to deter smoking.”

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CRIME

French police bust cross-Channel people-smuggling ring

French police have busted a major people-smuggling ring that has been sending migrants to Britain in dinghies, with more than a dozen boats and 700 life jackets seized in a raid, French authorities said Thursday.

French police bust cross-Channel people-smuggling ring

The ring was run by Iraqi Kurdish migrants and had a logistics hub in Lille, a northern French city about 100 kilmetres (60 miles) from the northern Channel beaches around Calais that are used for crossings.

Three Iraqi men have been charged, along with three French suspects after their arrest on Monday.

Police discovered “a real factory supplying nautical equipment” in Lille, the head of French anti-migration agency Ocriest, Xavier Delrieu, told AFP.

In what was their biggest ever seizure of equipment, they found 13 inflatable boats, 14 outboard engines, 700 life jackets, 100 pumps and 700 litres of fuel, Delrieu said.

The group is suspected of having organised 80 Channel crossings over the summer, of which 50 succeeded, with the smugglers netting around €80,000 for each one.

The arrests came due to intelligence-sharing between authorities in Belgium, Britain, Germany and the Netherlands, who are all trying to crack down on migrants crossing the Channel by boat.

The original tip-off came after a border guard control discovered a group of French youths carrying inflatables from Germany into the Netherlands.

More migrants have crossed the Channel to the UK from northern France so far this year than in the whole of 2021.

So far this year, more than 30,000 people have been detected crossing the Channel to the UK, fresh government figures showed Thursday. On Wednesday alone, the authorities detected another 667 people.

Britain’s new prime minister, Liz Truss, has faced some criticism from other Conservatives and in right-wing media outlets for not pressing for more French action against the crossings when she met President Emmanuel Macron in New York on Tuesday.

Downing Street said the issue did not come up at their talks on the margins of the UN General Assembly, which instead focused on common ground including Ukraine and energy security.

The crossings are among a host of issues that have badly strained Franco-British relations in recent years.

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