Migrants in Calais say they are more determined than ever to cross the canal despite the boat tragedy.
Yesterday’s tragedy off the Calais coast, in which 27 people died after a small boat capsized, was the deadliest crossing of the Channel by migrants on record.
But it has done little to deter the people waiting in French migrant camps from hoping to make the same crossing in search of a better life in Britain.
Abdullah, a Sudanese migrant who said he had been on the road for four years, crouched around a fire in a makeshift camp behind an out-of-town mall and slowly shrugged when asked if he would still try that Road to cross canal with small boat.
The 18-year-old said he paid a trafficker € 650 for a “package” of three attempted crossings, of which only one is left.
He said I: “I heard what happened, it scares me. They were people like me – Sudanese, Somalis, Afghans. We all know it could happen to us, but look at us, what choice do we have? The boats are not good. They take in water and the organizers use too many people.
“The first time I tried, the engine stopped and the French police brought us back. The second time we were stopped on the beach. I still have a chance. I can’t pay again, so it has to work this time. I know the risk, I don’t like the sea, but this is my only way to England. I want to study and have a better life. “
A short distance away, on the Sangatte sand dunes, Roj and his wife Fatima went back to the center of Calais. The Iraqi couple, who said they fled Islamic State, declined to talk about whether they tried to embark from the beach.
Roj said: “We also ask what are we doing here? We want to get to England, but there are very few ways to get there. We pay and we wait. It’s cold and the sea is dangerous. But we will do it. We are determined. “
Amman, a lanky, cheeky Eritrean 22-year-old, had heard of the English Channel boat tragedy on Wednesday but said he was undeterred.
“I still want to go to England,” he said, pulling the crucifix around his neck. “I think everything is written. If I die, I’ll die – I don’t give a shit. “
Amman is one of around 30 Eritreans camping in an industrial wasteland next to a BMX bike trail and the wine warehouses popular with British day-trippers.
Your only protection from the elements is a roughly tied tarpaulin and some thin tents donated by NGOs. Although the camp is thin, it is regularly demolished by the French police. “Sometimes they come and destroy the place. And sometimes they beat you up – especially if they see you doing it, ”he said I.
Amman has given up many rubber dinghies in the last five months since arriving in Calais because their passage was intercepted by authorities or the engine broke down even though his ships never sank. “Sometimes boats break – maybe I’ll be lucky I’m still alive,” he said.
But he’s still eager to reach the UK for a better life, and cites the rapper 50 Cent to get his point across. “Get rich or die trying.”
Mohammed, a tall, tooth-splitting but handsome 17-year-old from South Darfur, was among a dozen of his friends camping between a railroad crossing and the Calais cargo area on Thursday afternoon. He shrugged when asked if the boat disaster had prevented him from crossing the canal. “I’ve been through a lot,” he said I. “We had a war. They want me to fight. I left.”
Mohammed said he was unsure how to get across the Channel, adding that the dinghy he and his friends found had been confiscated by police. “Maybe one of them,” he said, pointing to the trucks that were lined up near the port. “Maybe someone will become a friend and let us in.”
But Muhammad’s main worry right now is the cold. Temperatures are falling, it has rained almost continuously for the past week, and while aid groups helped with clothes and wood for the fire, he shivered on Thursday in his camp in Calais. “I never know if I’ll survive the night,” he said, only half-jokingly.
Kaiwan, a 28-year-old psychology graduate from Iranian Kurdistan who wore three sweaters on Thursday afternoon, said he believed yesterday was mostly Kurds and a few Afghans.
“We’re sad and angry and upset about it,” he said I. “We heard about this boat trip, but were told that if we took them with us, we would have to hand over our cell phones. So we didn’t do it. ”
Kaiwan is based in Grande Synthe, on the outskirts of Dunkirk, about 32 km east of Calais, along with about 1,500 refugees. The dinghy that capsized yesterday is said to have left the beach there, near the former camp, until the French police cleared it last week.
Kaiwan stopped when asked if he could have been in the boat on Wednesday. “Maybe,” he said after a pause. “Maybe I was lucky.” But he still plans to get on the water one day. “I’ll come over. That won’t stop me. “
Both the French and British ministers have sought to condemn people smuggling groups following yesterday’s tragedy.
Immigration Secretary Kevin Foster said this morning that Britain was determined to crush the “evil” business model of human traffickers, while Boris Johnson pledged that Britain would “step up our cooperation with our French counterparts to destroy this horrific trade that is exploiting vulnerable people “. “.
However, some have argued that politicizing the migrant crisis puts human lives at risk. François Guennoc, the president of l’Auberge des Migrants, a French humanitarian group based in Calais, reprimanded politicians for creating the precarious situation for migrants.
“We are devastated by it. These people’s trips broke off just hours from the UK, ”he said I. “But we’re also angry because we expected that at some point.”