Camped in France, migrants renew their determination to tempt England – .

Camped in France, migrants renew their determination to tempt England – .

In the makeshift camps in France near Calais and Dunkirk, migrants take refuge, awaiting their chance to cross the Channel despite the deaths of at least 31 people when their boat sank a few miles from the French coast.
Police have stepped up patrols in recent days and the weather has deteriorated, making it a bad time to attempt a crossing. But most migrants say the tragedy will not prevent them from boarding a fragile inflatable boat containing up to 50 people in the hope of reaching Britain.

“I’m not afraid of anything,” said a 22-year-old Iranian who identified himself only as Kawa in hesitant English. ” The water? If we die… sorry to say but we are already dead. Nobody accepts us anywhere. We are helpful. No need, sorry, he said, correcting himself. “Just look at these people. “

Kawa and her father have spent the past six years in Denmark, where they say they never feel free because they constantly had to report to the police and other authorities. Now they want to reach England, and possibly Canada, because “they are good for the Iranians”.

They are part of a group of around 150 young Kurdish men and a handful of families camped on a disused railway line on Saturday in the hope of escaping the damp ground below. Alongside a collection of oddly red, green and blue tents near Dunkirk, they pull hoods over their heads, curl their shoulders in winter jackets, and snuggle up next to small fires to keep warm while ‘winter cold takes hold of northern Europe. A smell of burning plastic hangs in the air as migrants use whatever they can find for fuel.

The coast around Calais has long been the starting point for migrants eager to travel to the UK. But this week’s disaster underscores the combination of dreams and hopelessness that drives people to camp in the pouring rain with temperatures hovering around 40 degrees their lives at sea.

But first, they have to pay the smugglers about $ 3,300 for a place on a boat.

Ari, who like other migrants refused to give his last name for fear of deportation if caught, is an Iraqi physics teacher who left home because he couldn’t find a job .

He says he’s scared of the crossing – but the chance to have a better life is worth the risk.

“Everyone is afraid. But everyone here – they die (a little) every day, ”he said, winking subtly at the camp littered with rotten banana skins, soggy shoes and tents abandoned by migrants. already left for England.

Wednesday’s tragedy came amid an increase in the number of migrants trying to cross the Channel in inflatable boats and other small boats after the COVID-19 pandemic limited air and sea travel and the departure of the Great -Brittany of the European Union has reduced cooperation with neighboring countries in the treatment of asylum seekers and other migrants.

More than 23,000 people have already entered the UK on small boats this year, up from 8,500 last year and just 300 in 2018, according to data compiled by Parliament.

Despite this increase, the number of people seeking asylum in Britain is still relatively low compared to other European countries. Migrants heading to Britain usually do so for family, historical or geopolitical reasons, said Nando Sigona, chair of international migration and forced displacement at the University of Birmingham.

“So the people in Calais are there because they want to come here,” he said.

Britain has criticized France for not doing enough to stop the boats before they launch, but migrants say police have become more active since the deaths.

So they’re just waiting for things to calm down and the weather to improve.

Amanj, 20, a Kurdish activist from Iran, says he has no choice but to move forward. His father was recently jailed and the family do not know what happened to him. Amanj fears he will be next.

“Maybe I would die if I was in Iran, you know. Maybe I was… killed by the police with a gun. Nobody knows, ”he said. “If it’s not today, maybe tomorrow you’ll die anyway.” “

Fifteen kilometers to the west, in a camp outside Calais, Sudanese migrants kick a soccer ball around a bare pitch and hang laundry on a fence in the hope that it will dry under the weak Sun.

Patrick aspires to reach Liverpool and study political science. He says he has tried to smuggle into a vehicle bound for Britain every day for the past six months. Now he’s ready to try the boats, if he can find the money.

“I dream of England,” he said. “I know some people have died in the sea, but I will try by sea or by some other means. ”

In Calais, aid groups have taken over a warehouse where they collect supplies such as sleeping bags, food and firewood which they distribute to migrants at designated locations in the city.

Opie Cook, 27, sorts vegetables for a salad bowl after taking time off from work at HP helping migrants.

“It’s sad that it took such a tragedy to talk about it again,” she said.

Back in the camps, the men take off their shoes and push their feet as close to the campfires as possible, trying to dry them off and keep warm.

In the midst of despair, there is also determination.

Ari, the teacher from Iraq, first traveled to Belarus before taking a train through Poland, then across Germany to the Channel coast.

His destination is Bournemouth, where he has family. And he intends to get there.

“We want to be free,” he says. “This is why we are here. “


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