French police down tequilas at exact moment 50 migrants launch boat to UK

French police officers party in Calais | EXCLUSIVE

French officers downed tequila shots at one o’clock in the morning – at the exact moment that, less than five miles away, a group of 50 migrants launched a boat to the UK.

The Daily Express investigative team monitored the riot police officers on their boozing mission at their favourite Be Happy bar in Calais.

With the minimum of effort and perseverance, the boat launch could easily have been stopped.

This smuggler group’s exact location had been known to the CRS police for at least 15 hours before the departure.

It is not difficult to expose the traffickers’ operations in Calais, as we discovered within 36 hours of their arrival.

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A group of 20 migrants could be seen waiting at a bus stop in the Calais suburb of Bleriot Plage at 7.30am.

They each had a bag packed and were waiting for the free bus service from Calais to the nearby beach town of Sangatte.

The muster point in a quiet suburb was to avoid one of the smugglers’ most pressing concerns – not the authorities, but fare dodgers.

Penniless migrants, desperate for a free ride, tail the smuggler groups to the beaches determined to run at the boat at the last minute and leap aboard for free.

Our team watched as the group of paying migrants, unmolested by freeloaders or the police, boarded the bus for the 20-minute ride to Sangatte.

There, they were led by a smuggler out of town and up a bridle path to an idyllic spot above the cliffs, arriving at 8am to await their chance later that night.

Their position was hidden from sight but, within two hours, was known to the Gendarmerie, Police Nationale and CRS.

A lone Gendarme with two police dogs walked up the track and spoke to the migrant group at 10am, returning after taking no action.

The only disturbance faced by the migrants was a steady stream of hillwalkers, joggers and cyclists passing through their spot.

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One female hiker, aged in her 50s, who declined to be identified, returned to town via the bridle path and passed through the migrants’ new muster point.

She said: “Well of course there are at least 20 of them. They are just sitting in the shade either side of the path.

“What are they doing? Why they are waiting. Waiting to travel across La Manche to Angleterre.”

During the morning two more groups of migrants were led to the hillside rendez-vous taking the group to about 50, the majority men aged between 20 and 40 but with several women and at least two children aged around 12.

In the early evening four men were dispatched by the free bus to a local supermarket returning with supplies of food and water for their last meal prior to embarkation.

The Gendarmerie and CRS continued to keep an occasional eye on the position but took no further action.

At 1am last Tursday (September 7), as the CRS officers in the Be Happy bar in Calais licked salt from the backs of their hands to better enjoy each shot of tequila, the migrants made their move.

A 50-man dinghy had been delivered by the smugglers to the group and was carried to the clifftop where a collapse had created a natural bowl and ramp down to the beach.

In total darkness, they inflated their boat and lowered it to the sand below before scrambling down themselves.

The tide was at its lowest point leaving hundreds of metres of beach between the migrants and the water.

At last the Gendarmerie and CRS were alerted that a move was afoot, probably by a spotter plane cruising along the coast, and sprang into action at the last minute.

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Four patrol cars and two police vans screeched into the Sangatte slipway to the beach arriving at 1.40am.

A dune buggy was unloaded and began roaring up and down the vast expanse of beach.

One gendarme, asked if the operation had caught the migrants, said: “C’est en cours” meaning “It’s in progress.”

Behind him half a dozen officers sat on the slipway wall chatting and chuckling quietly as the dune buggy weaved around in the darkness.

At 2am a muffled but clearly audible cheer could be heard drifting across the sand from the waterline. The migrants had managed to get afloat.

It is believed they were one of three boats containing 161 migrants that made it to the UK on September 7.

The resources applied by the gendarmerie and Police Nationale in their last-seconds attempt to stop the launch were significant, around a dozen officers, seven vehicles and an aircraft.

But ultimately, they were utterly ineffective. Having known the launch was imminent for at least 15 hours the attempt was only made to stop it in total darkness in the middle of the night.

Calais Council has repeatedly protested in the past that the police cannot arrest migrants “just for being migrants” as they wait to launch their boats.

A spokesman for the Police Nationale, of which the CRS is a part, said: “The job of the police is to stop the boats from launching. We make an arrest only if there is violence or a crime is committed.”

None of the police units involved would discuss Thursday’s incident. The Police Nationale spokesman added: “Details are not available.”

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