Decathlon stops canoe sales in northern France to cut migrant crossings

Sports equipment retailer Decathlon will no longer sell canoes in the north of France to prevent migrants using them in a bid to cross the Channel to England.

A dinghy belonging to the French Maritime Affairs department heads for shore, carrying several migrants who had tried to cross the Channel to England
Photo: Bernard Barron / AFP

“The purchase of canoes will no longer be possible” in Decathlon stores in Calais and Grande-Synthe near Dunkirk, “given the current context,” the retailer told AFP, confirming local media reports.

The items sold from the stores were not being used for their original sporting purpose, but “could be used to cross the Channel,” it said. In such cases, “people’s lives would be endangered,” the retailer argued.

The stores themselves had decided to stop selling the canoes and management had approved the decision, Decathlon said.

The canoes will continue to be available for online purchase and in other stores. Other safety equipment, such as life-jackets and thermal protection will also still be sold in the Calais and Grande-Synthe stores.

READ ALSO What the French are doing to stop migrant crossings

ROn Friday, three migrants were reported missing after trying to cross the Channel to Britain in canoes, as the number of crossings soars.

Two canoes were found adrift off Calais on Thursday and two people were fished out of the water.

Earlier on Tuesday, French police cleared a major migrant camp that was home to around a thousand people hoping to reach Britain. Tensions are high between London and Paris over English Channel crossings.

A record number of migrants crossed the Channel in small boats last Thursday – 1,185 according to British figures – which the British government described as “unacceptable”.

READ ALSO: ‘The maximum’: What France is doing to prevent migrant crossings to UK

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin spoke to his British counterpart Priti Patel on Monday, but only after giving a blunt interview in which he said Britain should “stop using us as a punch-bag in their domestic politics“.

The French authorities said they carried out 10 separate operations Tuesday in which they rescued 272 migrants who were trying to cross the Channel to England aboard makeshift boats, some of them in difficulty.

Maritime officials said they were taken to the ports of Calais, Dunkirk and Boulogne-sur-Mer where they were looked after by the border police and firefighters.

Maritime Prefect Philippe Dutrieux said around 15,400 migrants have tried to make the dangerous Channel crossing between January 1 and August 31, with some 3,500 of them rescued from boats in distress and brought to French shores.

In 2020, some 9,500 people crossed the Channel or tried to do so, compared to 2,300 in 2019 and 600 in 2018.

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French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

After the seismic decision of the US Supreme Court on Friday, French MPs are calling for the right to abortion in France to be protected by the constitution.

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

Lawmakers from French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party are to propose a parliamentary bill on Saturday that would enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. 

The move comes after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision on Friday.

“In France we guarantee and advance the rights of women. We protect them,” said Aurore Bergé – the head of Renaissance in the Assemblée nationale and one of the key sponsors of the bill. 

Another co-sponsor, Marie-Pierre Rixain tweeted: “What happens in elsewhere cannot happen in France. We must protect the right to abortion for future generations. 

In 2018 and 2019, Emmanuel Macron’s party – which back then was known as La République en Marche – refused to back bills proposed by left-wing party, La France Insoumise, to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution. 

In a Saturday interview with France Inter, Bergé suggested that the success of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National during parliamentary elections earlier this month had created a sense of newfound urgency. 

She described the far-right MPs as “fierce opponents of women’s access to abortion” and said it was important “to take no risk” in securing it. 

READ MORE France’s Macron condemns US abortion ruling

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has come out in support of the bill. 

The left-wing opposition block, NUPES, also backs it and had planned to propose an identical piece legislation of its own on Monday. 

Macron is seeking parliamentary allies to pass reforms after his formation lost its majority in legislative elections earlier this month.

The legal timeframe to terminate a pregnancy in France was extended from 12 to 14 weeks in the last legislature.

Changing the constitution requires the National Assembly and Senate to adopt the same text, then a three-fifths majority of parliament sitting in congress. The other option is a referendum.