A British couple has accused French police of a “shocking” dereliction of duty after two migrants tried to stow away to the UK in their caravan.
Catherine Broughton, 71, and her husband Bruce, 74, were returning from a two-week holiday near La Rochelle.
The couple were buying wine in the port of Caen when a fellow shopper told them that two men, apparently immigrants, had broken into their caravan.
They ran out and, clearly seeing that their four-seater Bailey Unicorn caravan had been broken into, they alerted two gendarmes who were passing by on patrol.
Mrs Broughton, a writer, said what followed was like a “comic sketch” as the two officers entered the caravan.
British couple Catherine Broughton (right), 71, and her husband Bruce (left), 74, accused French police of a “shocking” dereliction of duty after two migrants tried to stow away to the UK in his caravan.
The couple were buying wine in the port of Caen, France, when a fellow shopper told them that two men, apparently immigrants, had broken into their caravan (file photo).
She said: “The gendarmes came out and said: ‘Ne personne’, meaning there was no one there.”
Mrs Broughton, who speaks fluent French, said: “The officers were just muttering to themselves that there was no one there and acting like we were wasting our time.”
‘I don’t think they thought I would understand them, but they were completely uninterested. It was amazing. I think it was time for lunch.
‘But when we entered the caravan I could see within seconds that there was someone hiding under the duvet.
“It seemed like something out of a comedy sketch or a farce. It was almost fun, but the gendarmes were not interested in finding anyone; For them it was just more work.
“After he came out, I asked the gendarmes to check the closets and units again and again they said: ‘Ne personne, ne personne’, but I insisted that they look under the bed and sure enough, there was the second stowaway.
‘How can you not see a person hiding under a duvet and under a bed? It’s ridiculous. It was clear that the gendarmes did not give a cent.
‘I spoke to the second boy in my rudimentary Arabic. One was called Muhammad and the other Omar. I estimate they were between 17 and 20 years old and clearly desperate.
‘I felt very sorry for them. I gave him a bag of food which he was clearly delighted with.
“He didn’t tell me where they were from, but I think they may have been from one of the sub-Saharan countries, possibly Sudan.”
Mrs Broughton, who speaks fluent French, said: “There was quite a bit of damage to the windows of the caravan where the children had broken in and also to a table inside.
‘The gendarmes asked us if we wanted to press charges and of course we said, ‘No,’ so the officers just fired the two guys. They kind of chased them away. I was impressed.’
After alerting French gendarmes about the migrants’ arrival, “the gendarmes (file photo) came out and said, ‘Ne personne,’ meaning there was no one there,” Ms. Broughton said.
Last November, the Government signed a landmark £62m deal with France to help its officials tackle the cross-Channel migration crisis.
The crackdown came after the number of migrants arriving in Britain on small boats this year reached more than 40,000 last year.
But Mrs Broughton, a mother of three grown-up children, says the British government should ask for a refund as her French counterparts are not taking the matter seriously.
Broughton, a retired structural engineer, said: ‘Rishi Sunak should apply for a refund. It is quite clear that the French authorities are not holding up their part of the agreement.
‘That was a joke. The French police did not even take or attempt to take his data. It was incredible.’
The couple have a holiday home near La Rochelle and often travel to and from the UK by ferry.
They said ports like Caen and St Malo always have groups of migrants hanging around the entrance trying their luck and that more should be done to help them.
Mrs Broughton, who was born in South Africa, said: “I feel like I should tell them that the UK is not so good for them and they could be stuck in a migrant centre.” They should stay in France.
“I think the Government probably needs to get the message across that this country is not a bed of roses for them, to say ‘Don’t bother’. I feel so sorry for them, but the UK is not the answer.”
The couple say they have never experienced anything like this before and promised to be very vigilant on future trips to France.