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A French Diplomat Sold Rubber Boats to Refugees — Then Got Fired

France's honorary consul in the Turkish town of Bodrum was secretly filmed last week inside the sporting goods store she owns saying she realized some people buying dinghies were "going to their deaths."
September 15, 2015, 7:10pm
Image of the honorary consul's sporting goods store, via Google Maps.

Read more about the international migrant crisis in VICE News' blog 'Open Water.'

France's honorary consul in the Turkish town of Bodrum has stepped down from her post, days after she told a French TV crew that her store sold inflatable dinghies to migrants hoping to reach the Greek islands.

Françoise Olcay was secretly filmed last week inside the sporting goods store she owns in the southwestern seaside resort of Bodrum. The town made headlines earlier this month when the body of a three-year-old Syrian boy, who drowned when his family's boat capsized as they attempted a crossing to Greece, washed up on one of its beaches.

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In the report, which was broadcast Friday on French television channel France 2, a reporter asked Olcay whether she was conscious that some of the people buying dinghies from her were "going to their deaths."

"Absolutely" she answered.

When asked if she is aware of the fact that France's honorary consul was contributing to human trafficking, she again answered, "Yes."

"If we stop selling, the guy next door will continue to sell, the guy behind us will sell… It changes absolutely nothing," Olcay told the reporter, before admitting, "We're still at fault."

She also pointed the finger at the Turkish authorities, who she claimed were just as responsible.

"The town hall fuels [human] trafficking, the Port Captain fuels trafficking, the deputy prefect fuels trafficking […] They let them leave," she said.

La consule honoraire de Bodrum suspendue by francetvinfoe

An excerpt from France 2's TV report.

Romain Nadal, France's ministry of foreign affairs' spokesman, announced Olcay's resignation Monday, in a tweet.

La consule honoraire à — Romain Nadal (@NadalDiplo)14 Septembre 2015

Olcay was suspended from her post Friday by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. A spokesman for the ministry told French radio France Info that the delegate would be "promptly fired" if found guilty of selling boats to migrants.

Olcay has lived in the area for more than 20 years.  Her post was overseen by France's consul general in Istanbul, whose mission is to provide administrative services to French citizens abroad.

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Unlike professional diplomats, France's honorary consuls are not paid for their duties, which involve fostering links with the French expat community in the area they are assigned to. As such, they often have other jobs.

Olcay was outed during an investigation into where migrants buy the inflatable dinghies they use to cross the Mediterranean. The investigation led reporters to Olcay's huge sporting goods store in Bodrum, where they were surprised to find a French flag and a plaque reading "Consular agency of France."

The honorary consul's sporting goods store. Image via Google Maps.

At least 22 people — including several children — drowned Tuesday when their boat capsized off the southwestern coast of Turkey as they were trying to reach the Greek island of Kos. According to Turkish press agency Dogan, the Turkish coast guard were able to save 211 migrants.

Related: Syrian Migrants Are Now Being Processed On A Cruise Ship In Greece

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 430,000 migrants have reached Europe by sea since the start of 2015. A majority of the arrivals are registered in Greece (70 percent) and in Italy (28 percent). In a statement released on September 9, the agency reported that 2,748 migrants had lost their lives in the Mediterranean since the start of the year.

Follow Lucie Aubourg on Twitter @LucieAbrg

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