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France Suspends Honorary Consul In Turkey After She Was Caught Selling Dinghies To Refugees

Francoise Olcay was filmed by a French TV station secretly selling rubber boats to migrants and refugees hoping to make the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.

Posted on September 12, 2015, at 12:05 p.m. ET

Emrah Gurel / AP

France's foreign ministry has suspended its honorary consul in the Turkish seaside town of Bodrum after she was secretly filmed selling dinghies to refugees and migrants trying to make the dangerous journey to Greece.

In a segment aired Friday on TV station France 2, Francoise Olcay was filmed selling the rubber boats and life jackets to migrants from her marine shop which had a sign reading "Consular Agency of France" affixed to a wall.

"We can't stop them from leaving," Olcay told France 2 after being confronted with the footage. "If we didn't sell [to the migrants], others would."

"We are still at fault, but if it wasn't us it would be others."

Bodrum is the same Turkish town where the body of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi and his brother were photographed after their boat went down.

Migrants leave Bodrum by a dinghy last month.
Osman Orsal / Reuters

Migrants leave Bodrum by a dinghy last month.

Reacting swiftly, the French Foreign Ministry suspended Olcay as honorary consul — a voluntary position held by people who are not officially part of the diplomatic corps, but who live in the town and are willing to help compatriots.

"The facts are serious and unacceptable for an honorary consul," ministry spokesman Romain Nadal told France 2.

"The battle against human smuggling is a priority for France and we cannot accept the facts uncovered last night by your journalist," Nadal said.

Agence France-Presse reported Olcay had served in the position since October 2014.

She claimed to France 2 that local Turkish authorities were also involved in the trade of selling boats to migrants.

More than 300,000 refugees and migrants have attempted to cross the Mediterranean for Europe by boat this year, according to figures from the UNCHR.

"At the same time, some 2,500 refugees and migrants are estimated to have died or gone missing this year, trying to reach Europe," spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told reporters last month.

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