Undeterred by the channel’s dangers, desperate immigrants still plan to cross

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CALAIS, France – The lights on the opposite side of the English Channel were visible on Thursday when asylum seeker Emanuel Malpa, who had been living in a makeshift camp on the north coast of France for the past week, dreamed of crossing.

“I do not believe I will die,” he said. “I hope to come to England.”

Mr. Malba, 16 and other immigrants after long journeys across Europe, are separated from their destination by a narrow waterway from their homes fleeing the Middle East and Africa. But the narrowing of the passage was disappointing, as evidenced by the death of at least 27 people on Wednesday in a failed attempt to cross the canal in a thin inflatable boat.

Despite the deaths – one of the catastrophes involving immigrants in Europe in recent years – Mr. Malpa and other people were waiting Thursday for the perfect time to get out of the woods with their own boats and rest on the beach. .

In recent months, the number of immigrants heading to the Channel has increased as authorities have blocked other routes to the UK, especially by truck through the tunnel under the canal.

“This is a new Mediterranean,” said Mr. Cunningham, who arrived in Calais a week ago. Malpa, 16, evoked the scene of the 2015 immigration crisis that rocked Europe.

A year before leaving Liberia in West Africa, Mr. Malbah himself made a treacherous voyage to Italy via the Mediterranean. On Thursday, he was speaking in a wooded area near the beach where dozens of other asylum seekers had sought refuge under the blue tarmac and were trying to stay warm around the fire.

Provoked by the tragedy at sea the day before, the French and British leaders vowed to suppress the channel’s diaspora shortcuts separating their two countries, organized kidnapping gangs and accusing each other.

These deaths provided a sobering reminder of how little change has taken place in the five years since French authorities removed the vast immigrant camp in Galilee. Both countries are still struggling to deal with migrants in the area, following a policy that immigration rights groups and immigration experts say exposes asylum seekers unnecessarily.

On Thursday, French authorities confirmed that children and a pregnant woman were among those drowned, and teams worked in the cold and wind to recover the bodies and identify the dead.

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

French Interior Minister Gerald Dormann said authorities believe there were about 30 people on board a ship, compared to “a pond you explode in your garden”.

French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke by phone on Wednesday and agreed to step up efforts to prevent immigrants from traveling through one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. Britain is currently funding France to cover the cost of blocking crossroads through surveillance and patrols.

Although the two countries have long blamed each other, many immigration experts and rights groups share the responsibility on both sides: their approach makes the situation of asylum seekers as difficult as possible, encouraging them to leave for Europe.

“France is in a position to sub-contract with Britain just as Turkey is to Europe,” said Franுவாois Herரன்n, a migration expert at the College de France in Paris. “Why does France allow British police officers to stop immigration on French soil? These asylum seekers are unwelcome because we share the same ideology.

At the beginning of Europe’s migration crisis in 2015, the English Channel was considered an insurmountable obstacle, with its dynamic currents and unpredictable weather making every effort to overcome the most dangerous.

Many tried instead of boarding trucks entering the tunnel under the channel. But now police are constantly patrolling the roads leading to the canal, and the 12-foot-high barbed wire fence stretches for miles along the many routes leading to the port of Calais. This has greatly reduced the number of immigrants riding in freight trucks.

Pierre Roques, co-ordinator of the Auberge des Migrants, a non-profit group based in Calais, said over the past few years that France’s north coast had been “militarized” and that “there is more security and more smuggling networks are being created so that immigrants can no longer cross on their own.”

Many Sudanese immigrants are queuing up for food supplies on the outskirts of Calais, where police often wipe out their makeshift camps and sometimes beat them with electric sticks, he said. A Human Rights Watch report released in October described the tactic of persecuting immigrants as “implemented suffering.”

Cat and mouse play with immigration officials.

Mr. from Liberia. Malpa, a young man, described trying to cross on Tuesday when the engine on the inflated boat did not start and it was abandoned. Immediately the French police came and cut the boat.

Didier Leci, director of the French Office for Immigration and Coordination, attributed the rise to channel crossings – sometimes up to 50 people a night, he said – to a sea of ​​”one-of-a-kind mafia professional” smugglers who promote immigration, at prices ranging from $ 1,100 to $ 2,800.

He said France needed “tens of thousands of police officers” to monitor the long coastline where immigrants depart.

Immigration rights groups said the authorities were not taking action to address the rising tide of boating.

Alain Ledgunel, head of a private organization that runs maritime rescue operations in Dunkirk, the city where most of the migrants who died on Wednesday departed, said his team has been involved in three times as many maritime rescue operations in recent months.

“We’ve been sounding the alarm for two years,” he said. “Since September, it has not stopped.”

In a vicious statement issued last month, the National Assembly said that the French government’s immigration policy had failed and that it had led to the violation of the rights of immigrants. According to the report, by 2020, about 85 percent of all money spent by French and British immigrants on French shores would have been spent on security and 15 percent on health and other assistance.

The co-author of the report, Mr. Sonia Grimmie, lawmaker for Macron’s party, La République en Marche, said. .

“We’ve been doing it for 30 years and it’s not working,” Ms. Grimm said. “Immigration was, is and will always be.”

But the political explosiveness of immigration, especially five months before the presidential election in France, makes it difficult to consider new approaches, Ms Grimm said. His statement – improving the housing and working conditions of immigrants and regulating asylum applications – was also criticized by his own party members.

In Galilee, immigrants seeking to move to Britain are increasingly distrustful.

Sassd Amian, 25, who immigrated from South Sudan, said he relied on trucks heading for the Channel Tunnel.

A graduate in architecture, Mr. Amien said it was “his dream to go to England”, which he described as “a strong, well-educated and English-speaking country”.

He said he had fled the war in South Sudan four years ago and had fled across the Mediterranean to Italy due to a shortage of food and water after being stopped in Egypt and Libya. Amien said.

As trucks pass through a roundabout on their way to the Channel Tunnel, for a moment – a few seconds – they may slip between the axles and try to find a hidden spot, Mr. Amien said. Many have lost legs and some have tried and died, immigrants say.

But, as it has done so far, Mr. Amien said he was not afraid.

“Death,” is nothing new in this life.

Constant Mehd Calais, and Norimitsu Onishi From Paris. Aurelian Breiten And Leontine Colois Contributed report from Paris.


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