A barrier of floating buoys across the Canche River is designed to prevent departures of inflatable boats to the United Kingdom. Such a construction in the U.S. state of Texas could violate various laws.
The responsible authorities of the Pas-de-Calais department in France want to curb crossings of refugees to Great Britain with a swimming barrier. For this purpose, a chain of floating buoys is to be laid across the Canche, reports the Internet portal Infomigrants. The river near the village of Le Touquet flows into the English Channel. Many of the inflatable boats on their way to the United Kingdom launch from there into the strait, which is more than 40 kilometers wide at this point.
Smugglers then head up the coast toward Calais and pick up more people on the boat at a designated point, Xavier Delrieu, the head of France’s Office for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings (OLTIM), tells Infomigrants. The department, set up by decree last year, is part of the Interior Ministry and is tasked with tracking down people smugglers in France.
With the swimming barrier, the police want to keep control over the pursuit and apprehension of the often overloaded inflatable boats. Because once they are on the English Channel, according to the head of OLTIM, “it is no longer a police operation, but a sea rescue.” Since the beginning of the year 2023, 22 such departures have been detected on the Canche River. On average, there would have been 46 refugees on the boats.
The floating barriers are one of numerous measures taken by governments in Paris and London to reduce crossings – but to no avail. According to a report by the organization Utopia 56, attempts to cross the English Channel increased by 22 percent in June despite increased police presence and mild weather.
The United States government is also using such buoys at the Mexican border. In the state of Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott has had such a system anchored for several kilometers in the Rio Grande riverbed. Metal discs fitted with teeth are placed between the balloons to prevent them from being climbed over. In the concerned section of the river, the authorities are also said to have installed barbed wire in some places.
At least two deaths have already been found at the Texas floating barriers. Whether they were the cause of death or the people drowned elsewhere and floated downstream is under investigation.
In the neighboring country, the measures are causing criticism: According to a report, the Mexican Secretary for Foreign Relations has sent a diplomatic note to the U.S. government. According to it, the barrier erected by Texas violates border and water treaties between the two countries, under which the river must be allowed to flow unimpeded. According to an investigation, U.S. authorities installed 80 percent of the barriers on Mexican territory.
The Biden administration is also taking action against the floating barriers in Texas, claiming the state has violated an old law on navigable U.S. waterways by doing so without federal approval. A lawsuit in federal district court in Austin seeks to force Texas to remove the barriers. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Aug. 22.
Published in German in „nd“.
Image: The floating barriers in Texas (Repuclican Senator Sylvia Garcia on Twitter).