French sports retailer Decathlon has halted the sale of kayaks in two northern French communes to prevent migrants using them to cross the English Channel.

The decision comes in light of a sharp rise of people attempting to cross the Channel with a record 1,185 migrants arriving in Britain last Thursday. The next day, three migrants who attempted to cross the Channel in a canoe were reported missing.

On Monday, after speculation from the local press, Decathlon’s press office announced that:

“The recent rise in attempts to cross [the Channel] has indeed led our team at Decathlon Calais to consider whether they should continue to sell products which might be used outside of their intended sporting purpose and rather be used to cross the Channel. After discussion with our teams, from now on we will no longer sell boats, especially kayaks, which could endanger the lives on those using them to cross [the Channel]. We are committed to never putting our customers at risk when using our products, no matter the circumstance.”

The Calais and Grande-Synth stores will continue to sell safety equipment such as lifejackets, oars and body warmers.

This is not the first time Decathlon’s policies have been caught up in French national concerns. In 2019, the retailer was boycotted for the planned sale of a “running hijab”

Some lawmakers, such as Agnès Buzyn, the Health Minister at the time, stated that the sale of such a product would fly in the face of France’s sacred notion of ‘laïcité’ or secularism.

The company received over 500 phone calls and emails complaining about the item which was already for sale in its Moroccan stores, and some staff members were even physically threatened by customers. Decathlon buckled under the pressure and decided to “not market this product in France at this time”.