Goodwill Channel trip ends in arrest

9th August 2007, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, Aug 9, 2007 (AFP) - Three European councillors who sailed from France to Britain on a makeshift raft as a goodwill gesture were arrested when they came ashore, a member of their welcoming committee said Thursday.

LONDON, Aug 9, 2007 (AFP) - Three European councillors who sailed from France to Britain on a makeshift raft as a goodwill gesture were arrested when they came ashore, a member of their welcoming committee said Thursday.

"In the space of 20 seconds I went from elation at their joyous arrival to deep concern when two very angry coastguards appeared," said Lynn Dockar, manager of the Boulogne and Shepway Co-operation Association (BOSCO).

The arrests happened Wednesday after Guenter Ludvig and Bernard Drueker, from the German town of Zweibruecken near the French border, and Claude Allan from Boulogne braved choppy seas to make the nine-hour crossing to Folkestone.

Dover Coastguard said the group had failed to get permission from the relevant authorities to cross the busy shipping lane and described the raft as "unseaworthy".

The raft was made from six oil drums and a sheet of wood, had out-of-date flares, a broken radio and no life-saving equipment.

Mark Clark, from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, said the stunt was like "crossing the M25 (London's notorious orbital motorway) on a scooter with a blindfold on".

"It was just stupid. They posed a danger to themselves and to other vessels. Big ships are not to be messed with. Ships go up and down there at a considerable rate...

"We're really hacked off with them that they chose to do this."

Dockar disagreed with coastguards, saying the vessel was solidly-constructed and the trio, all in their 60s, were experienced sailors. They had also tried to obtain permission once they left but were unsuccessful.

"They were making a very symbolic journey across the Channel carrying a message of goodwill," she added. "They wanted to show their support of European solidarity and meet their friends. They thought it was a big gesture."

After 10 hours in the cells, the trio were released without charge and eventually got to deliver a goodwill message in a bottle from the mayor of Zweibruecken to the local council in person.

Shepway District Council chairman George Bunting said: "We are very pleased to welcome people from Europe and across the world.

"In this particular case we would advise our friends to use a more orthodox form of transport next time they visit us."

Boulogne and Zweibruecken are twinned while Boulogne is linked to Folkestone through the BOSCO scheme, which works to secure European funding for cross-Channel projects.

AFP

Subject: French news

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