From France to the United Kingdom: why do migrants risk crossing the Channel?

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More and more people are taking small dinghies across the Channel to the UK, despite efforts on both sides to stop them. Many desperately want to escape the unemployment and homelessness they have experienced elsewhere in Europe.

This year, according to the French maritime authorities, at least 6,200 migrants attempted to cross the Channel from France on board small boats. Over 4,000 people made it to UK shores – the rest were intercepted by French authorities before reaching Britain. At least one person drowned in the attempt.

The number of people reaching the English shores is small compared to the total number of immigrants to the UK. The number of asylum applications in Britain is also much lower than in other European countries. (Last year there were 46,055 asylum claims in the UK, which has around 66 million people, compared to 165,615 claims in Germany, with around 83 million people.)

However, the recent sharp rise in Channel crossings continues to alarm British politicians. Interior Minister Priti Patel took a firm stand, saying she wanted to make the route “unsustainable” and send ships back to France.

The Home Office has revealed it could use a disused barracks in Folkestone in Kent as early as next Monday to accommodate around 400 people who have arrived by boat. According to the local council, the question of the accommodation of migrants has not been resolved.Why not stay in France?

The continued increase in the number of attempted migrant crossings comes despite the fact that the English Channel is one of the busiest shipping routes in the world and very dangerous for small boats. This is in part due to tighter controls on lorries and lorries entering the UK, which have deterred people, smugglers and migrants from using this tactic.

Another reason migrants continue to travel is that many of them have relatives or people they know in the UK, said Matthieu Tardis, migration policy expert at the French Institute of Relations. international.

The English language, much more spoken than French, is another factor attracting migrants to Britain, Tardis explained in an interview with the news agency. AFP. The difficult living conditions experienced by migrants in many European countries are also responsible, he added. “The bad conditions they are experiencing in France, Italy and other EU countries are pushing them to go even further, to think that in the United Kingdom it will be better. »The “road to death”

Walid survived the 33 km journey from France to Dover, paying a smuggler € 3,000 to board a small inflatable boat with a rickety engine.

He had traveled to France from Germany where he met Falah, a young Iraqi of two daughters. As the two planned their escape from France, Falah said AFP: “Even though this journey is nicknamed ‘the road of death’, we want to cross it. We are heading into the unknown – there is only God, the water and us.

Walid, a stateless person from the “bidoon” tribe of Kuwait, had already tried to cross the Channel three times. Twice there were too many police patrols. The other time the dinghy was torn and the ferryman told them to get out.

On Thursday September 10, Walid finally reached Britain, where he said AFP he was determined to make a living. His friend Falah stayed on the French side.

Also read: At night, the UK seems close, but once the water starts to enter your boat it’s terrifying

British survey

The British government continues to pressure France to intercept boats or prevent migrants from leaving. Meanwhile, an ongoing parliamentary inquiry in Britain into the reasons for the growth in the number of migrant crossings will examine what authorities on both sides of the Channel are doing “to combat illegal migration and support legal routes to it. asylum ”.

Tardis criticized earlier bilateral deals – estimated to have cost Britain at least € 100m – to fund increased border security on the French side to prevent undocumented migrants from reaching the UK. As a result, several hundred people continue to live in makeshift camps in or near the French coastal town of Calais, the site of the infamous camp known as the Jungle which was officially closed in 2016.

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In a way, the British exported their borders to French territory, as we do the Europeans in the countries of North Africa or in Turkey.Tardis said, adding that France should focus on creating legal means for migrants to travel to the UK, such as family reunification.

With AFP

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