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Monday, December 6, 2021

Undaunted by the dangers of the English Channel, desperate migrants still plan to cross the border

CALE, France – Lights were visible across the Channel on Thursday, emboldening Emanuel Malbach, an asylum seeker who lives in a makeshift camp on the north coast of France last week and dreams of crossing it.

“I don’t believe I’m going to die,” he said. “I believe I will go to England.”

A thin waterway separates 16-year-old Mr. Malbach and other migrants from their destination after long travels in Europe from their homes in the Middle East and Africa. But the narrowness of the passage is deceiving, as became clear Wednesday when at least 27 people died in a failed attempt to cross the Channel aboard a flimsy inflatable boat.

Despite the fatalities – the disaster was one of the deadliest in recent years involving migrants in Europe – Mr Malba and others were still waiting for the right time Thursday to jump out of the forest in their boats and take a break to the beach. …

The number of migrants traveling to the English Channel has skyrocketed in recent months as authorities cut off other routes to England, especially by trucks through the Channel Tunnel.

“This is the new Mediterranean,” said 16-year-old Malba, who arrived in Calais a week ago, recalling the 2015 migrant crisis that shook Europe.

Mr. Malba himself made a treacherous journey across the Mediterranean to Italy after leaving Liberia for West Africa over a year ago. On Thursday, he performed in a wooded area off the coast, where dozens of other asylum seekers sought shelter from the rain under a blue tarp and tried to warm themselves by the fire.

Inspired by the tragedy at sea the day before, French and British leaders pledged to take harsh action against migrants crossing the canal separating their two countries, blaming organized smuggling groups as well as each other.

The deaths are a sobering reminder of how little has changed in the five years since the French authorities dismantled the sprawling migrant camp in Calais. Both countries continue to struggle to cope with migrants in the area, following policies that migrant rights groups and immigration experts say expose asylum seekers to unnecessary danger.

On Thursday, French officials confirmed that children and a pregnant woman were among the drowned as crews worked in freezing wind and cold weather to retrieve the bodies and try to identify the dead.

Two survivors were found, one from Iraq and one from Somalia, and were taken to a French hospital where they were treated for severe hypothermia.

Gérald Darmanin, France’s interior minister, said authorities believed about 30 people were thrown onto the ship, which he likened to “a puddle that you blew up in your garden.”

French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke on the phone on Wednesday and said they agreed to step up efforts to prevent migrants from traveling along one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. The UK is currently providing money to France to help cover the cost of preventing border crossings through surveillance and patrolling.

While both countries have long accused each other of doing too little to curb the transitions, many immigration experts and rights groups say both sides share a responsibility: their approach was to make the plight of asylum seekers as difficult as possible. to dissuade them from going to Europe.

“France is in the position of a subcontractor for the UK just as Turkey is for Europe,” said François Héran, a migration expert at the Collège de France in Paris. “Why does France allow British police officers to stay on French soil to stop immigration? This is because we share the same ideology that these asylum seekers are undesirable. ”

At the beginning of the European migration crisis in 2015, the English Channel was considered an insurmountable obstacle, and its changeable currents and unstable weather made any attempt to cross it too dangerous.

Instead, many tried to board trucks entering the Channel Tunnel. But now police regularly patrol the roads leading to the canal, and 12-foot-high barbed wire fences stretch for miles along several routes to the port of Calais. This has dramatically reduced the number of migrants getting onto trucks.

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Pierre Roques, coordinator of the non-profit group Auberge des Migrants in Calais, said France’s northern coast has been “militarized” over the past few years, adding that “the more security there is, the more smuggling networks develop, because migrants can no longer cross on their own. by oneself “.

Several Sudanese migrants who lined up at a food distribution on the outskirts of Calais said police often combed their makeshift camps, sometimes shocking them with electric sticks. A Human Rights Watch report published in October described the tactics of harassing migrants to force them to leave as “forced suffering.”

Migrants are playing cat and mouse with the authorities.

Mr Malba, a teenager from Liberia, on Tuesday described a border crossing attempt that had to be interrupted because the inflatable boat engine would not start. Shortly after, French police showed up and crashed the boat, he said.

Didier Leschy, director of the French Directorate of Immigration and Integration, attributed the dramatic increase in channel crossings – sometimes up to 50 per night, he said – to the “kind of mafia professionalism” of smugglers who encourage migrants to travel to other countries. sea ​​at a price of 1100 to 2800 dollars.

France will need “tens of thousands of police officers” to monitor the long coastline from which migrants are sent, he said.

Migrant advocacy groups said that, apart from tough measures, the authorities have done little to address the increasing number of crossings.

Alain Ledagenel, president of a private sea rescue organization from Dunkirk, the city most likely to have left the migrants who died on Wednesday, said his team had tripled in sea rescue operations in recent months.

“We sounded the alarm for two years,” he said. “It hasn’t stopped since September.”

In a report released last month, the National Assembly said the French government’s policy on migrants had failed and resulted in violations of migrants’ rights. Of all the money the French and British spent in 2020 to fight migrants along the French coast, according to the report, about 85 percent was spent on security and only 15 percent on health and other assistance.

This is evidence that the authorities were pursuing a policy of creating as harsh conditions as possible in Calais to discourage others from coming, said Sonia Crimi, co-author of the report and MP for Mr Macron’s party, La République en Marche. …

“We’ve been doing this for 30 years and it doesn’t work,” said Ms Crimi. “Immigration has existed, exists and will always exist.”

But the politically explosive nature of immigration, especially in the five months before the French presidential election, makes it difficult to consider new approaches, Ms Crimi said. Her report, which recommended improving living and working conditions for migrants and making it easier to process asylum applications, was criticized even by members of her own party.

In Calais, migrants hoping to enter the UK are becoming increasingly desperate.

Sassd Amian, 25, a South Sudanese migrant, said he was pinning his hopes on trucks heading for the Channel Tunnel.

After completing his degree in architecture, Mr. Amian said it was his “dream to go to England,” which he described as “a strong country with a good education and English speaking.”

Mr Amian said he fled the war in South Sudan four years ago and survived the crossing of the Mediterranean to Italy without food or water after stopping in Egypt and Libya.

When trucks pass the roundabout on their way to the Channel Tunnel, Amian said there is a moment – just a few seconds – when you can try to slip between the axles and find cover. According to migrants, several people lost their legs and some died while trying.

But going so far, Mr. Amian said he was not afraid.

“Death,” he said, “is not new in this life.”

Constant Méheut reported from Calais, and Norimitsu Onishi from Paris. Aurelien Breeden and Leontine Gallois provided a reportage from Paris.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
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