By Pascal Rossignol
CALAIS, France (Reuters) - Standing in front of the remains of dozens of inflatable craft in the backyard of a police station, Captain Eric Binet has a message for migrants considering the sea crossing to Britain: don't risk your lives.
Warm weather and a deceptively calm-looking sea are tempting dozens of migrants to board rubber dinghies for the 30 km crossing to Dover, whose white cliffs are visible from Calais, while police try to stop them before they put to sea.
On Wednesday, a young Sudanese man was found dead on a French beach, the first victim this year of a new route to Britain used by hundreds of people in recent weeks. [nL8N2FL3GR] [nL8N2F96TE]
At the Marquise police station near Calais, the engines and jerrycans full of fuel are stored inside, but piled against a wall outside is an assortment of inflatable craft confiscated from migrants in recent weeks.
"From here, it looks like Britain is just a hop, skip, and a jump, but that is an illusion. The Channel is a busy shipping highway, and there are violent currents," Binet told Reuters, adding that migrants often take to sea with 20 to 25 people in an underinflated boat with an underpowered engine.
Day and night, police scour the beaches and dunes around Calais, looking for migrants hiding as they wait for the right moment, their equipment often buried under the sand.
Major Florent Decrouille, who commands a patrol on the beaches west of Calais, said his men prevent several crossing attempts each week.
A few days ago they stopped a vehicle carrying seven migrants, an inflatable boat, an engine and a can of fuel.
"It is a good thing their attempt failed, they would have risked their lives. The sea was very, very rough," he said.
(Reporting by Pascal Rossignol; Writing by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Giles Elgood)