EIGHT suspected people-smugglers arrested on a Calais beach were freed within hours - because "buying a boat is not a crime".
"They were arrested by a sea surveillance patrol," said an investigating source in Boulogne-sur-Mere. "It was at around 2pm on Friday that a boat belonging to them was found."
The semi-rigid dingy, with a Suzuki outboard motor, had been bought in Belgium by one of those arrested. "Buying a boat is not a crime," said the source. "They were released after five hours of questioning."
It is believed the vessel was returned to the group, none of whom have been officially named.
A spokesman for Boulogne prosecutors confirmed the incident, saying there was not enough evidence for a people-smuggling trial.
Christophe Castaner, the French Interior Minister, confirmed that 71 attempted crossings were recorded in 2018, compared to 12 the previous year, with Iranians making up the biggest group of would-be migrants.