The decision is unprecedented on an issue that is regularly the source of friction between London and Paris, the increase in illegal attempts to cross to the United Kingdom by sea.
Kayaks that can be used by migrants to cross the Channel have been withdrawn from sale in Decathlon stores in Calais and Grande-Synthe, the sign said on Tuesday (November 16), confirming information from The voice of the North. “The purchase of these kayaks will no longer be possible” in the stores of Calais (Pas-de-Calais) and Grande-Synthe, near Dunkirk (Nord), “In reaction to the current context”, said the Decathlon press service.
Three migrants were reported missing on Friday after trying to cross the Channel on kayaks. Two kayaks were found adrift off Calais on Thursday, and two castaways rescued by the gendarmerie.
« The recent increase in crossing attempts has indeed led our Decathlon Calais teams to question the position to be taken on the sale of products that can be diverted from their sporting use and serve as boats to cross the Channel ” , affirms the brand requested by the regional daily. The brand specializing in sporting goods indicates that “It is not the design that is given to these products, nor their primary utility”.
Decathlon justifies this withdrawal by a use which “Could endanger the lives of people who use them in the course of a crossing”. It indicates that the decision has been made ” at the store “ and “Validated by the company”.
Vests, oars remain available for sale
For years, migrants have flocked to the Hauts-de-France coast in the hope of reaching the United Kingdom, with a surge since 2020 in crossings aboard small boats. According to the United Kingdom, 22,000 migrants have managed to reach England since January.
The maritime prefecture of the Channel and the North Sea, which coordinates relief operations in the area, counted, until August 31, 15,749 people taken care of during rescue operations at sea involving crossings or crossing attempts, compared to 9,551 in 2020 and 2,294 in 2019.
Decathlon adds that these kayaks remain available for sale online and in other stores, and specifies that “Products that improve safety at sea such as life jackets, oars or thermal protection will always be available for sale” in Calais and Grande-Synthe.