A similar sized dingy set off on March 9 and was picked up by the French authorities | Photo: Twitter/préfecture maritime de la Manche et de la mer du Nord @premarmanche
A similar sized dingy set off on March 9 and was picked up by the French authorities | Photo: Twitter/préfecture maritime de la Manche et de la mer du Nord @premarmanche

The French authorities discovered a migrant boat on the beach at Quend in Normandy on Sunday. The beach is almost 90 kilometers further south than the normal crossings from Calais and Boulogne towards the UK.

A souped-up rubber dinghy, its sides partially deflated, a few canisters of fuel, some jumpers, a lifejacket and a foot pump for inflation were found on the beach in Quend in the Somme area of Normandy on Sunday, April 4.

The relatively small craft, no more than about four or five meters long, with makeshift wooden boards lining the bottom, had accommodated around 30 migrants, mostly from Vietnam and Iraq when they made their failed attempt to reach the UK at the weekend.

'They must have been desperate'

"That makes you feel really sick, they must have been desperate to attempt the crossing in such a craft," said the mayor of Quend Marc Volant to the regional branch of the French national broadcaster France3.

Quend is almost 90 kilometers south of Calais, and a quick glance at the map shows that any crossing from there towards the UK would have to cover a lot more ground, either directly out across open water, or up the French coast towards Calais before turning to cross the Channel at its shortest stretch which is about 30 kilometers.

Mayor Volant confirmed that this was the first time such a migrant boat had washed up on Quend beach. According to France3, a local passer-by had noticed the boat in trouble at around 6 a.m. on Easter Sunday. The witness said that about 30 people appeared to be in the water, and he quickly called the fire brigade to help.

Quick response

The emergency services responded quickly and the police informed the mayor at about 8:30 a.m., reported France3. Some of those on board ran off into the countryside, according to the report. The remaining 23 (three women and 20 men) were taken by the emergency services to the town’s community hall, under the cinema, said Volant.

"I gave them water and I asked a local business which does takeaways to make them a coffee and give them something to eat," Volant explained to France3. "They weren’t injured but they were very cold and soaking wet," he added.

By mid-morning, the police took the migrants to the police station to check on their migration status, and they were then set free with an order to leave the territory.

According to France3, the mayor is worried that the increase in police checks further up the coast in the Calais region is pushing smugglers and migrants to attempt a Channel crossing further down the coast and that this might not be the last time a boat turns up on the beach at Quend.

'Navigating in the bay is not easy'

InfoMigrants French, quoting a local newspaper Le Courrier Picard, said that everyone on board had a life jacket and was hoping to reach the British coast. Police sources told Le Courrier Picard that the boat had originally set off from a town north of Quend. But they lost their way. Captain Janowski, head of a police force in Abbeville, told the newspaper that "navigating in the bay is not easy."

Le Courrier Picard also said that this is now the second time a migrant boat has pitched up in the Bay of the Somme. According to that newspaper, "in July 2020, a dozen or so people attempted to cross the Channel, setting off from Cayeux-sur-Mer, but finished up in a hospital in Abbeville."

Last week, on April 1, the Ppefecture responsible for the Channel and the North Sea (Préfecture maritime de la Manche e de la mer du Nord) said it had rescued 169 migrants in the Boulogne and Dunkirk areas, and on April 3, a further 12 near Dunkirk.

With France3, InfoMigrants French, Le Courrier Picard, AFP


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