Two French men jailed for helping migrants cross the English Channel

Two French men have been sentenced to prison for helping irregular migrants to cross the English Channel.

The first of the two men is the owner of a second-hand boat firm, who has been convicted of selling as many as 39 inflatable boats to migrants who used them to cross the English Channel. Emmanuel Desreux, 45, was sentenced to 18 months in prison, with an additional 18 months of suspended sentence on 24 May 2019. Some of these boats were said to be stolen fishing boats. Desreux was found in possession of EUR 14,000 in cash when he was arrested.

Police launched their investigation over the crossings when they arrested four Iranians and two French taxi drivers on Wimereux beach near Calais in January. Information obtained from the arrests led police to Desreux’s boatyard in the town of Deûlémont, close to the Belgian border.

The boat seller was also putting migrants in contact with a taxi driver in Calais, accused of transporting tires and smugglers by night to the beaches on the coast. In court, Jean-Claude Demeyer admitted to making six trips. “I arrived, they came out of the vehicle very quickly, took the boat, the engine, the lifejackets, the oars and disappeared,” he said. He was sentenced to a year in prison, with another year suspended.

The busy waterway, high currents, and low water temperatures make small boat crossings very dangerous for irregular migrants, particularly those on vessels unsuitable for the crossing. However, neither of the convicted men showed remorse for their actions. “Everything depends on the weather,” Desreux said in court. “When it was bad weather, I told them [the migrants] to call back later.”

As part of a security agreement with the UK aimed at combatting irregular migration across the English Channel, France has intercepted hundreds of migrants and delivered harsh sentences to smugglers.

TMP – 13/06/2019

Photo credit: Gilles Paire / Shutterstock

Photo caption: French coastguard ship and boat.