CALAIS (France) — Despite the loss of 27 migrants this week, migrants are still digging in at the French makeshift camps near Calais or Dunkirk.
Recent days have seen increased police patrols and severe weather conditions making it difficult to cross the border. Most migrants believe that the tragedy will not stop them from climbing on to a small inflatable boat with 50 people in their hopes of reaching Britain.
A 22-year old Iranian man named Kawa, said in halting English that he didn’t fear anything. “Water? We have already died, but if we die… We are not accepted anywhere. We’re useful. He said, “Utilities, sorry.” “Take a look at these people.”
Kawa and his dad spent six years in Denmark. They say they were never free there as they had to report to police. They now want to travel to England and Canada because they are “good to Iranians”.
The group includes about 150 Kurdish young men and a few families who camped Saturday along a disused railroad track in an attempt to escape the damp ground below. They are joined by a group of brightly colored, green, and blue tents in Dunkirk. They pull hoods on their heads and wrap themselves in winter jackets. As migrants burn whatever fuel they have, the air is filled with the stench of burning plastic.
Calais’ coast has been a popular landing point for migrants wishing to reach the U.K. since long. This week’s catastrophe highlights the mix of despair and dreams that drive people to sleep in the rain, with temperatures hovering at around 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 Celsius), for the chance to take their lives at sea.
They must first pay smugglers 2,500 Pounds ($3,300) to get a place in a boat.
Ari, like many migrants, declined to give his lastname for fear of being caught. Ari is a physics teacher from Iraq, who fled home when he couldn’t find work.
He admits he is scared about crossing, but the possibility of a better future is worth it.
“Everyone is afraid But everyone here — (a little) they die every day,” he stated, referring to the camp that was littered with soggy shoes, rotting banana peels and tents left by migrants heading for England.
Wednesday’s tragedy occurred amid an increase in migrants trying to cross the channel using inflatables or other small craft. This was due to the COVID-19 pandemic which limited air and sea travel, and Britain’s exit from the European Union. The EU’s withdrawal also hampered cooperation with other countries processing asylum-seekers.
According to data compiled and published by Parliament, more than 23,000 people have entered the U.K. via small boats this year. This is an increase of 8,500 people last year and 300 in 2018.
The number of asylum applications in Britain has increased despite this. However, it is still quite low when compared to other European countries. According to Nando Sigona of the University of Birmingham, chair of International Migration and Forced Displacement, migrants who seek asylum in Britain are often driven by family, historical, or geopolitical reasons.
He said, “So Calais people are there because it’s their desire to come here.”
Britain has criticised France for failing to do enough to stop boats being launched before they happen, but migrants claim that police are more active after the deaths.
They are waiting for the weather to improve and things to calm down.
Amanj, a 20-year-old Kurdish activist from Iran says that he cannot stop moving forward. His father was recently in prison and his family don’t know what happened. Amanj is afraid he might be the next.
“Maybe, I would die in Iran if I was there, you know. He said that he didn’t know if he was killed by police with guns. “If not today you might die tomorrow.”
Fiveteen miles (25 km) west of Calais, Sudanese migrants kick a soccer ball on a patch of ground and hang laundry from a fence to dry in the weak sunlight.
Patrick longs to study political science in Liverpool. For the past six months, he claims he tried to smuggle himself into a vehicle headed for Britain each day. He’s now ready to go on the boat trip, if he has the money.
He said, “I dream about England,” “I know some people drowned in the sea, but that I will still try by sea or any other means.”
Calais has seen aid groups take over a warehouse that houses supplies such as sleeping bags, food, and firewood. They distribute these items to migrants at designated locations around the city.
Opie Cook (27 years old) is sorting vegetables in a vat for salad after she took a leave from her job at HP to assist migrants.
She said, “It is sad that this has to be discussed again.”
Men take off their shoes back in the camp and nudge their feet towards the campfires to dry their feet.
Despite the despair, there’s also hope.
Ari, a teacher from Iraq, first traveled to Belarus, then took a train through Poland and Germany to reach the coast.
Bournemouth is his destination, where he has relatives. He intends to do it.
He says, “We want freedom.” “That’s why are we here.