Sports goods retailer Decathlon has said it won’t be selling canoes in its stores in northern France anymore because the light vessels are increasingly being used by migrants trying to cross into England.
“Given the current context… the purchase of canoes will no longer be possible” in Decathlon stores in Calais and Grande-Synthe, outside Dunkirk, the French retailer announced.
The two cities overlook the Strait of Dover, which is the narrowest point in the English Channel. Thousands of migrants have been using this spot in recent years to try to make the dangerous 34-kilometer-long sea journey from France to the UK.A lot of canoes aren’t being purchased for their original sporting purpose, Decathlon complained.
They “could be used to cross the Channel” and as a result of this, “people’s lives would be endangered,” it pointed out.
“We are committed to never putting our customers at risk in the use of our products, whatever the circumstances,” the company said.
The initiative to remove canoes from the shelves came from the stores themselves and was backed by the head office, according to the retailer. However, Decathlon will keep selling the vessels online and in its other shops across France.
Last Thursday, two canoes were found adrift in the Channel near Calais, while two migrants were rescued from the water. The next day, three more people were reported missing after attempting to get to England using canoes.
Tensions between London and Paris are high after a record number of migrants – 1,185 – were able to cross the Channel a week ago.
Britain said it was “unacceptable” that France had let so many people slip through, but the French government insisted they were “neither their collaborators nor their assistants” and blamed the soaring crossings on the smugglers and the UK’s labor market, which makes the country attractive to people eager to “work at low cost.”