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Camping in Calais, migrants renew their resolve to try for Britain

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CALAIS, France (AP) – In makeshift camps in France near Calais and Dunkirk, migrants are digging, waiting for their chance to cross the English Channel despite the deaths of at least 27 people this week when their boat sunk. a few miles (km) from the French coast.

Police have stepped up patrols in recent days and the weather has worsened, making it a bad time to try to cross the border. But most migrants say the tragedy will not prevent them from climbing into a flimsy inflatable boat carrying up to 50 people in the hope of reaching Britain.

“I am not afraid of anything,” said a 22-year-old man from Iran who identified himself as Kawa in broken English. “Water? If we die… sorry to say this but we’re dead. No one accepts us anywhere. We’re useful. Useless, sorry,” he said, correcting himself. “Just look at these people.”

Kawa and his father have spent the past six years in Denmark, where they say they never feel free because they constantly have to report to the police and other authorities. Now they want to go to Britain, and eventually Canada, because “they are good to the Iranians.”

They were among a group of about 150 young Kurdish men and a small group of families who camped Saturday on an unused railway line hoping to escape the damp ground below. Beside a dazzling collection of red, green and blue tents near Dunkirk, they pulled their hoods over their heads, hunched their shoulders under their winter coats and gathered around small fires to keep warm as The cold of early winter swept through Northern Europe. The smell of burning plastic wafted through the air as the migrants used whatever they could find for fuel.

The coast around Calais has long been a stopping point for anxious migrants to the UK But this week’s disaster highlights the combination of dream and despair that has left people camping in drizzle with temperatures hover around 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) because of the opportunity to risk their lives at sea.

But first they have to pay smugglers around £2,500 ($3,300) for a seat on the boat.

Ari, who, like other migrants, refuses to give his last name for fear of being deported if caught, is a physics teacher in Iraq who ran away from home because he couldn’t find a job.

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

“Everybody is scared But everyone here – they die (a little bit) every day,” he said, nodding subtly at the campsite littered with rotting banana peels, soggy shoes and abandoned tents. by migrants who have left for England.

Wednesday’s tragedy comes as the number of migrants trying to cross the canal using inflatables and other small craft following the COVID-19 pandemic restricts train and air travel as well as Britain’s departure from the European Union limits cooperation with neighboring countries in handling asylum seekers and other migrants.

More than 23,000 people have entered the UK in 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 asylum seekers in the UK remains relatively low compared to other European countries. Nando Sigona, chair of the Division of Forced and International Migration at the University of Birmingham, said migrants to Britain often do so for family, historical or geopolitical reasons.

“So 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 are launched, but migrants say police have become more active since the deaths.

So they were simply waiting for things to settle down and the weather to get better.

Amanj, 20, a Kurdish activist in Iran, says he has no choice but to apply pressure. His father was recently jailed and the family doesn’t know what happened to him. Amanj fears he might be next.

“I would probably die if I was in Iran, you know. Maybe I was… killed by the police with a gun, nobody knows,” he said. “If not today, maybe tomorrow you die somehow.”

Fifteen miles (25 km) west at a camp outside Calais, Sudanese migrants kick a ball around an open field and hang clothes on a fence in the hope that it will dry in the weak sunlight.

Patrick aspired to go to Liverpool and study political science. He says he has been trying to get himself in a car headed to England every day for the past six months. Now he is ready to try the boat, if he can find the money.

“I dream of England,” he said. “I know that some people have died at sea, but I will try by sea or any other way.”

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

Opie Cook, 27, is sorting vegetables for a salad box after quitting her job at HP to help migrants.

She said: “It is very sad that this has led people to talk about such a tragedy.

Back at camp, the men took off their shoes and nudged their feet as close to the fire as possible, trying to dry and keep warm.

In the midst of despair, there is also determination.

Ari, a teacher from Iraq, first went to Belarus before taking a train to Poland, then through Germany to reach the canal bank.

His destination is Bournemouth, where he has a family. And he intends to do it.

“We want to be free,” he said. “That is why we are here. ”

https://www.yourbasin.com/news/camped-in-calais-migrants-renew-resolve-to-try-for-england/ Camping in Calais, migrants renew their resolve to try for Britain

PaulLeBlanc

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