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‘Good anti-sinking capacity, lifejacket optional’: journey of a ‘refugee boat



Against the backdrop of Dunkirk’s busy port with its cranes and smoke, a collapsed, grey rubber dinghy lies on the shore, abandoned and washed in by the tide.

It is one of the many haunting signs of the thousands of desperate people who have attempted to cross the Channel from northern France.


Nearby lies a red lifejacket and a shoe, half-filled with sand. The vessel bears the name MaRe Boote, a German firm based in the small western Rhineland town of Werne, about 400 miles from Calais. According to German police, at least 24 MaRe boats have been used by migrants to make the perilous journey.


In a compound in Dover, where boats seized after being used to carry people from France are stored, there are dozens of dinghies of the same or similar model. According to British and French authorities, smugglers buy them in Germany, ship them to France, then transport them to the beach a few hours before departure.


The Guardian has traced the journey of a number of different types of dinghies used by the people smugglers, most of which are produced thousands of miles from Dover in China, where they are generally ordered by smugglers over the internet to be delivered to the main migration routes to Europe.


The Guardian take up the story here using MariTrace data.