France suspends honorary consul in Turkey over boat sales to migrants

PARIS (AFP) - French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Friday suspended an honorary consul in Turkey for selling rubber dinghies and life jackets to refugees risking their lives crossing the Mediterranean to Europe.

"The minister has just ordered her suspension," foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal told AFP following a television report showing the woman in her sailing goods shop in the southwestern Turkish resort town of Bodrum, with a French flag and plaque reading "Consular agency of France" hanging outside.

"Francoise Olcay has been informed of her suspension by France's consul general in Istanbul to which she belongs," Nadal added.

Olcay has held the position since October 2014.

In the footage, which was secretly filmed by France 2 television, she can be seen selling inflatable dinghies and life jackets to migrants and refugees hoping to reach the Greek islands.

Admitting to taking part in the trade, she claims local Turkish authorities are also involved. Asked why she doesn't stop, she says others would only come and take her place.

Bodrum hit the headlines earlier this month after images of a drowned Syrian toddler lying on the beach sparked shock around the world over the dangers faced by refugees desperate to reach Europe.

Three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, his four-year-old brother and his mother drowned along with nine other Syrians when two boats capsized as they were trying to sail to the Greek island of Kos.

Honorary consuls, who perform their duties without being paid, are public servants who enjoy a special status which allows them to also engage in paid professional work. They are not professional diplomats.