A British couple have accused French police of ‘astonishing’ dereliction of duty after two migrants tried to stowaway into 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 shopping for wine in the port of Caen when a fellow shopper told them that two men, believed to be migrants, had broken into their caravan.
They ran outside and after seeing that their four-berth Bailey Unicorn caravan had clearly been broken into, alerted two gendarmes who were driving past in a patrol car.
Ms Broughton, a writer, said what followed looked like a “comic sketch” as the two officers entered the caravan.
British couple Catherine Broughton (right), 71, and her husband Bruce (left), 74, have accused French police of an ‘astonishing’ dereliction of duty after two migrants tried to flee to the UK in their caravan.
The couple were shopping for wine in the port of Caen in France when a fellow shopper told them that two men, believed to be migrants, had broken into their caravan (file photo)
She said, “The gendarmes came out and said, ‘Ne personne,’ which means no one was there.”
Ms Broughton, who speaks fluent French, said: ‘The officers just mumbled to themselves that nobody was there and acted like we were wasting their time.
“I don’t think they thought I would understand them, but they were totally disinterested. It was astonishing. I think it was time for their lunch.
‘But when we walked into the caravan, I saw within seconds that someone was under the duvet.
“It was like something out of a comedy skit or farce. It bordered on funny, but the gendarmes weren’t interested in finding anyone – it was just more work for them.
“After he climbed out I asked the gendarmes to look again in the wardrobes and cupboards and they said again ‘Ne personne, ne personne’ but I insisted they look under the bed and sure enough there was the second stowaway.
‘How do you recognize someone who is hiding under a duvet and under a bed. It’s laughable. It was just obvious that the gendarmes didn’t give a dime.
“I spoke to the second boy in my rudimentary Arabic. One was called Mohammed and the other Omar. I estimate they were between 17 and 20 years old and they were clearly desperate.
“I really felt sorry for them. I gave him a bag of food which he was clearly happy with.
“He wouldn’t tell me where they came from, but I think they’re 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 the boys had broken into and some damage to a table inside.
‘The gendarmes asked if we wanted to press charges and of course we said ‘No’, so the officers just waved the two boys away. They more or less chased them away. I was impressed.’
After alerting the French gendarmes to the migrant intrusion, “the gendarmes (file photo) came out and said ‘Ne personne’, meaning no one was there,” Ms Broughton said.
Last November, the government signed a historic £62 million deal with France to help their officials deal with the cross-Channel migrant crisis.
The crackdown came after the number of migrants arriving in Britain by small boats surpassed 40,000 last year.
But Ms Broughton, a mother of three grown children, says the UK government should ask for a refund as their French counterparts are not taking the matter seriously.
Mr Broughton, a retired structural engineer, said: ‘Rishi Sunak should ask for a refund. It is clear that the French authorities are not keeping their part of the bargain.
‘It was a joke. The French police have not even tried to get their details. It was unbelievable.’
The couple own a holiday home near La Rochelle and often travel by ferry to and from the UK.
They said that in ports such as Caen and St. Malo there are always groups of migrants lingering at the entrance to try their luck and that more needs to be done to help them.
Ms Broughton, who was born in South Africa, said: ‘I feel I should tell them that the UK isn’t great for them and they could get stuck in a migrant centre. They must stay in France.
“I think the government should probably get the message across that this country is not roses for them, tell them, ‘Don’t bother.’ I feel terribly sorry for them, but the UK is not the answer.’
The pair say they have never experienced anything like it and have vowed to be extra vigilant on any future trips to France.