Emmanuel Desreux, 45, sold 39 motorised inflatable boats to migrants in 2018 and 2019
A Frenchman has been jailed for selling dozens of boats to migrants desperate to reach Britain by sailing across the English Channel.
Emmanuel Desreux, 45, sold 39 motorised inflatables to people trying to make the journey from France to the UK illegally.
He was sentenced to a year and a half behind bars, with another 18 months suspended for abetting illegal migration between October 2018 and March 2019.
More than 30 migrants have been returned to Europe so far this year after they were caught trying to enter the country by boat.
There has been a huge spike in Iraqi, Iranian and Afghan nationals travelling to the UK in recent months, prompting border officials on either side of the Channel to step up patrols.
Desreux’s taxi driver accomplice who organised the transport of the boats and some of the migrants to beaches, Jean-Claude Demeyer, 54, was sentenced by the same court in Boulogne-sur-mer to one year in prison, with another year suspended.
Police launched their investigation into the crossings when they arrested four Iranians and two taxi drivers in January on a beach near Calais in January.
Information from those arrested led them to Desreux and his firm, Fluvialys, which was located in the town of Deulemont on the border with Belgium.
The period his company sold the boats corresponds with the noticeable increase in arrivals of illegal migrants.
A group of 18 migrants are pictured on a Border Force dinghy after they were caught trying to reach the UK illegally from France via the Channel this week
Migrants have turned to the clandestine sea route after abandoning attempts to clamber aboard trucks crossing from France to Britain via the Channel Tunnel or on ferries.
Authorities in the northern Pas-de-Calais region said nearly 500 migrants on more than 60 boats managed to reach England’s shores between October and March.
Some of the vessels were stolen fishing boats, while others were purchased by the migrants.
Police found 14,000 euros (£12,308) in cash in Desreux’s car when he was arrested.
Neither of themen expressed any remorse for the risks the migrants ran by crossing one of the busiest shipping corridors in the world, one beset by strong currents and often foul weather.
‘Everything depends on the weather,’ Desreux said in court. ‘When it was bad weather, I told them (the migrants) to call back later.’
On Friday, a group of 18 migrants – including children – were found crammed on a small inflatable boat off the Kent coast.
Kingsdown Beach near Deal on the Kent coast (pictured) is where several of the migrants have been found since last year
Their rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) was intercepted by a Border Force cutter and the migrants were taken to shore at Dover.
The group, made up of men, women and children, said they were either Iraqi or Iranian.
They have been taken in for interview by immigration officials after being medically assessed.
The migrant crisis skyrocketed skyrocketed at the end of last year, with hundreds risking their lives to make it from France to Britain.
It sparked Home Secretary Sajid Javid into declaring a ‘major incident’ at the end of December 2018, and he hauled in extra Border Force cutters in a bid to stem the crisis.
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘Anyone crossing the Channel in a small boat is taking a huge risk with their life and the lives of their children.
‘Since the Home Secretary declared a major incident in December, two cutters have returned to UK waters from overseas operations, we have agreed a joint action plan with France and increased activity out of the Joint Coordination and Information Centre in Calais.
‘It is an established principle that those in need of protection should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach and since January more than 30 people who arrived illegally in the UK in small boats have been returned to Europe.’