CALAIS, FRANCE –
A year after 27 migrants drowned trying to reach the UK from northern France in what has been described as the worst maritime disaster in the English Channel in 30 years, the number of migrant crossings has only increased.
In fact, 2022 has already broken previous records. According to the UK government, more than 40,000 people have made dangerous journeys on the world’s busiest shipping lane so far this year, compared to 28,500 last year, 8,400 in 2020 and 1,900 in 2019.
CTV News spoke to asylum seekers waiting in Calais for space and favorable weather conditions on the boat. A man from Afghanistan told us that he had prepared 3,000 euros ($4,100) and was waiting for news from the smugglers. An Iranian man whose asylum claim in France was denied has tried to reach England three times since then. When asked if he was afraid of dying trying to cross the street, he laughed, pointing to the makeshift camp, and asked what the alternative was.
They come from Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Albania and Sudan, among other countries. The English language is a big factor and undocumented job seekers have heard that it is much easier to slip on the black market than in other countries. Among them are those who will be eligible for refugee status when they reach the UK, but the problem is finding a legal way to land on British soil.
UK commissioner Suella Braverman described the crisis as an “invasion”, but during a meeting with a Conservative MP friend on a parliamentary committee did not explain how someone could seek asylum in the UK if they were not granted asylum. Permission to board a flight to the UK
“We have to open safe and legal passages like we did for Ukraine,” charity worker Lucy Halliday told CTV News during a morning walk in a wooded area in Calais. He spends most of his mornings looking for refugees and making sure they have something to eat. “We’ve proven that England is not full, we can take in more people and open safe crossings so that no one risks their life on a small boat crossing the English Channel,” she said.
The camps are scattered, and when they heard Halliday’s voice offering food tickets, an African man zipped up his tent, stuck his head out, and said, “cat food?!” yell. While he was waiting for an opportunity to go to the UK, he found nine cats that came to him for food.
Nearby, in the once empty field, the only sound is the rain hitting the blue tents housing young Sudanese men. Another is 17 and has been here for months. He doesn’t have the 3,000 euros needed to travel by boat, so he will try to sneak in a truck that will cross the English Channel via the Eurotunnel.
For those traveling by boat, a distance of 30 kilometers and ruthless smugglers separate them from their destination. For many, the risk of dying on the way is better than the ones they leave behind.