At least seven of the small boats that were confiscated by French authorities were auctioned on the same day as 27 migrants died in the Channel.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that the vessels, including one almost identical to the dinghy that sank near Calais, were sold online last Wednesday for as little as €160 (£135).
Critics question the morality behind selling longboats. These boats are very inefficient for fishermen and yachtsmen.
On the day that 27 migrants were drowned in Channel waters, the French authorities sold at least seven small boats they had confiscated. This is an illustration of a dinghy.
The online auction of 15 inflatable dinghies and 50 outboard engines recovered at sea by lifeboats, coastguards or the French Navy was approved by France’s Maritime Affairs department.
A sale page shows that seven craft between seven and nine metres in length were sold for between €160 and €320 each. The engines fetched between €150 and €600.
Six longboats were black but the seventh – Lot 168 on the online site Interencheres – was grey and similar to the flimsy craft that deflated and sank on Wednesday.
It was feared that the boat’s poor construction had been caused by DIY cowboys who worked in secret factories located in France, Belgium and Germany.
The site holding the auction accepts payments in cash for items selling below €1,000, with buyers asked to collect purchases from a warehouse at Bourbourg on the coast between Calais and Dunkirk.
Within hours of another 40 migrants being filmed launching dinghies out of France, police have seen at least 27 drown in Channel trying to cross from France into the UK. Photographed in a dinghy only for illustration purposes
One Breton boat-owner said: ‘I know the maritime world and this type of inflatable boat, nine metres long and with a flexible floor, is not of the kind used by pleasure craft owners.
‘Who are the buyers of this type of craft? They are being sold by who? What is there to stop them being sold to people-smugglers?’
According to a spokeswoman, no one was available from auctioneer Thierry Mai. The Maritime Prefecture of Cherbourg authorized the auction, she said.