Shipwreck of migrants in the English Channel: “In half an hour, you are likely to lose your life”

La Croix: At least thirty-one migrants died, this Wednesday, November 24, in the sinking of their boat off Calais, trying to reach the United Kingdom. What do we know about what happened?

Francois Guennoc : It’s terrible. This could mean that, for the first time, it might be all the passengers of a wrecked boat. The sea was relatively calm on Wednesday. It is not known if the boat capsized or if it was flat.

→ THE FACTS. Migrants: around thirty dead in the sinking of a boat off Calais

But we see that in recent months, there have frequently been poor quality canoes with 30 or 40 people on board, which we did not see before. People have life jackets, but that is not enough. When you fall in water that is 10 ° C or less, you go into hypothermia very quickly and within half an hour you are likely to be killed.

It is the deadliest shipwreck that France has seen in the English Channel since the soaring migratory crossings in 2018. What, in your opinion, explains why so many people attempt this crossing?

FG : The Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin, who comes to Calais, has already said that it was the smugglers’ fault. But you have to understand why people use smugglers. First, one of the best arguments is the crossing success rate. If we compare the figures of people who are arrested before crossing the Channel and the figures of those who arrive in Great Britain, we see that 70% of the attempts are successful. It is very encouraging. And it is even more so now that the possibilities of accessing the Channel Tunnel via trucks have become very difficult and risky. However, we cannot say that the French authorities have relaxed their coastal surveillance system. I live in a village by the sea and again on Wednesday morning, the gendarmes prevented migrants from leaving.

In addition, it must be understood that exiles who want to go to Great Britain no longer have a choice. It is often people who have already tried to settle elsewhere in Europe, who have been dismissed. They have nowhere to go. And the extremely repressive policy which consists, in Calais, of evacuating migrants every time they settle somewhere, reinforces this desire to leave at all costs.

What is amazing is that the attempts do not seem to decrease when we are in the wrong season. It is possible that the smugglers put pressure on scores of people to board before the weather deteriorated for good.

What should be done?

FG : Our policy is criminal and stupid. If smugglers are thriving, it is because migrants cannot settle in Europe and there is no longer any legal way to get to England. Since Brexit, even the family reunification of minors is no longer possible. However, what we see is that when people do reach England despite everything, most of them apply for asylum and a large number, around 40% of memory, obtain it. The UK economy is so badly in need of workers that it is easy to find work.

→ READ. Migrants in Calais: the Vatican is monitoring the situation very closely

This means that we force people to pay smugglers and risk their lives when in the end, they could settle legally. An agreement would have to be reached so that some of these people could settle legally.


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