France restricts petrol sales to hurt migrant smugglers

Number of people crossing to the UK in small boats has hit record numbers in 2021

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Towns along France's north coast have limited takeaway sales of fuel to 10 litres per customer to tackle illegal migration across the Channel, a local newspaper reported.

"Buying or selling more than 10 litres of fuel – petrol or diesel – in hand-carried containers is prohibited," the order issued on Thursday said, according to La Voix du Nord daily.

The local authorities said the measure was necessary given a "growing presence" of migrants seeking to cross illegally to Britain. The decree noted that petrol-fuelled outboard motors were "one of the main ways" of powering boats making the perilous voyage.

The measure, valid for two months, calls for a fine of €135 ($160), which could rise to €3,700 for several offenders.

Since January 1, authorities have recorded more than 700 attempted or successful crossings, the decree said, and called for "all useful steps to dissuade and obstruct the organisation of such illegal and dangerous crossings".

More than 8,000 people aboard hundreds of boats have reached British shores so far this year, outstripping the total for all of 2020.

Adverts posted on social media by smugglers offer different payment options, including money-back guarantees if migrants fail to make it across the narrow waterway, the Telegraph newspaper reported.

The UK will spend more than £54 million ($73 million) to help France stem the flow of migrants crossing the Channel, which will including improving security along the coast. The UK has paid £114 million to France since 2015 but the money has not stopped the increase in numbers attempting the crossing.

Border authorities expect to intercept more migrant boats taking advantage of good summer weather and calm conditions to try cross the English Channel from France.

UK Border Force patrols ensure passengers on boats intercepted are brought ashore for processing.

Updated: July 23, 2021, 2:49 PM