French boatyard owner who helped migrants cross Channel sentenced to 36 months in jail

Emmanuel Desreux arrives at court charged with helping alleged illegal migrants. Credit: ITV News

A French boatyard owner filmed by ITV News selling migrants dinghies to sail across the Channel to Britain has been sentenced to 36 months in jail.

Emmanuel Desreux charged groups of migrants desperate to attempt the perilous crossing from France to England thousands of euros for a small, flimsy inflatable craft and an engine.

ITV News carried out secret undercover filming earlier this year as one group pumped up their dinghy and set off across the beach in the dark to try to cross from northern France.

Desreux appeared in court last week charged with 'helping the entry circulation or stay of an alleged illegal migrant between 1 October 2018 and 19 March 2019'.

ITV News learned he had sold 39 boats to migrants over some months.

He was given a 36 month jail term, suspended for 18 months. But he is not yet behind bars as another judge can review the sentence.

Outside court in Boulogne-sur-Mer, northern France, ITV News asked him how much he had made from helping migrants and whether he had any regrets. He replied in French that he could not understand the questions.

Emmanuel Desreux appeared in court but did not speak to ITV News. Credit: ITV News

Desreux operated a boatyard near Lille. He was charging groups of migrants €4,500 for a dinghy and engine - well above the market rate.

In February, ITV News joined a group of migrants and filmed them as they pumped up their inflatable craft on a secluded beach as waves lapped their feet.

They were then filmed via a thermal imaging camera hauling the small boat across a beach in the dark.

ITV News cameras were also on board a fishing vessel as the migrants' boat was intercepted by a British Border Force boat as they tried to reach England.