The narrow but treacherous passage that continues to claim victims


Saturday 27 November 2021 3:30 p.m.

On a clear day, the White Cliffs of Dover can be seen from the sandy beaches of Calais, just 34 km away through the treacherous waters of the English Channel.

It is here that tens of thousands of people around the world risked death to travel to the UK in canoes, kayaks and other small boats.

But the perilous sea voyage has claimed many lives, resulting in outpourings of grief and repeated pledges of action from governments on both sides of the Channel.

A stone’s throw from the docks where migrants bundled up in cold blankets disembark at Dover, there is a silent memorial to those who lost their lives seeking refuge in the UK.

The dangers of the Channel crossing were once again exposed this week as hundreds more, including very young children, made the dangerous Channel crossing to the UK.

Adults carrying young people and others wrapped in blankets were seen arriving on England’s south-east coast over the weekend with the help of lifeboat crews.

And on Wednesday, a migrant boat capsized causing the loss of dozens of lives. The French regional maritime authority said 27 people had died, causing shock and horror on both sides of the Channel.

The dead included five women and a girl while two survivors had been recovered and were being treated in a French hospital. One of the women who died was later reportedly pregnant.

Nearby: The White Cliffs of Dover

The worst incident of its kind

Prime Minister Boris Johnson held talks with President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday evening following the worst such incident since the current influx of migrants began.

But those who follow the unfolding of the crisis are hardly surprised.

Last Saturday, French authorities said 243 people in difficulty had been recovered and brought to safety in the ports of Boulogne-sur-Mer, Dunkirk and Calais.

More than 24,700 people have arrived in the UK so far this year after crossing the Channel in small boats – almost three times more than in 2020.

That includes at least 1,247 who have arrived since Monday alone, according to data compiled by various agencies. This number is expected to increase as the exact figure for Tuesday is still being finalized by the Interior Ministry.

The arrivals came as it was reported that asylum seekers will have to obey strict rules at the new centers or deal with their rejected claims under plans advocated by Interior Minister Priti Patel.

Kevin Saunders, former UK Border Force Immigration Director, argued that people arriving in the UK via the Channel should be treated overseas.

He told Times Radio: ‘The most efficient way would be to take all the people who have arrived in the UK to an offshore processing center and treat them abroad.

“This is the only way to prevent people from entering the UK. We have seen trying to do it with the French on land, on the English Channel, nothing helps.

When asked why it had to be offshore, he said: “People will always come to the UK because they know we will not be able to deport them from the UK when their asylum claim fails.”

He said only a small number of people had been fired this year and described the UK as’ just too attractive ‘to people, adding:’ They know that once in UK they have won the jackpot. “

Migrants continue to arrive across the Channel
Migrants disembarked in Calais

The interior minister was impressed with the construction of centers in Greece, where migrants were subject to strict curfews and routine checks on their movements, the Daily Telegraph reported.

A UK government source was recently cited by The telegraph claiming that if migrants break the new rules, their asylum claim could be affected.

The Times reported that Boris Johnson had recruited Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay to oversee the issue of the growing number of migrants arriving on British shores.

The newspaper said the prime minister was “exasperated” by the situation following a number of strategies to stem the tide. The decision to bring in Barclay could be seen as an admission that Ms Patel has failed to resolve the issue.

Meanwhile, Sir Keir Starmer accused Patel of failing to keep his promises to stem the flow of illegal migrants across the Channel. The Labor leader said she did not have strong enough deals with the French government to prevent migrants from making the dangerous journey at sea.

He said the Home Secretary had repeatedly used “strong language” to say how she would tackle the problem, but delivered “absolutely” nothing.

They had left in a desperate attempt to reach England, a journey that had fatal consequences.

Charities described the latest tragedy as a “sobering reminder” of the hardships faced by refugees and called on Interior Minister Priti Patel to change her strategy.

Since the beginning of 2019, more than a dozen people have died or gone missing while trying to cross the Channel on board small boats.

They are among some 300 border-related deaths in and around the Channel since 1999, according to a report by the Institute of Race Relations, the Steering Group of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal in London and the French group Gisti.

Migrants crossing the Channel intercepted by British border forces

This summer

On August 27, a 27-year-old man from Eritrea died after he and four others jumped overboard as their boat began to sink in the English Channel.

His 22-year-old girlfriend watched him enter the water before being rescued later, a French migrant aid organization said.

After being taken back to the port of Dunkirk, she later found out that her boyfriend had died after being taken to hospital.

Around 36 people were on board the boat trying to get to the UK when it got into trouble amid rough seas in the Strait of Pas de Calais, triggering a massive emergency response .

Meanwhile, on March 2, three people with hypothermia were taken to hospital after their boat capsized in the English Channel.

Firefighters assisted two Sudanese nationals who reported that three or four people were on board their vessel. A search and rescue operation was launched to try to locate other survivors and the third person was discovered near the port of Calais.

The search at sea for a possible fourth person continued, but to no avail.

Last year

Tragedy struck the Strait of Pas de Calais again at the end of October 2020, when a migrant boat sank off the French coast, killing seven people, including five from a Kurdish-Iranian family.

Three young children, including a 15-month-old baby, as well as their parents, have died, while two other adults are also believed to have lost their lives.

The family’s names were Rasoul Iran-Nejad, 35, Shiva Mohammad Panahi, 35, Anita, nine, Armin, six, and Artin, 15 months. They came from a village near the Iranian Kurdish town of Sardasht, in the province of West Azerbaijan, northwestern Iran.

They made two attempts to cross from France to the UK on board a train, but both failed, after which they decided to reach the UK by sea. The incident is considered as the greatest loss of human life during the current migrant crisis.

Migrants cross the Channel from France

Earlier that same month, the body of a man was found on a beach near Sangatte, outside Calais, around 8 a.m. on October 18.

Attorney for neighboring Boulogne-sur-Mer, Pascal Marconville, said it was likely the man had drowned trying to make the crossing and his body washed up on the shore within hours later. He is believed to have been between 20 and 40 years old and may have been Iranian.

In August 2020, the body of Abdulfatah Hamdallah was found on the beach of Sangatte, at the gates of Calais.

This followed a search and rescue effort launched after a migrant, suffering from hypothermia, said his makeshift boat capsized at sea and his companion, who could not swim, was missing and is possibly -be still in the water. The Sudanese man, who is believed to be in his 20s, drowned.

Believed to be from West Kordofan, Sudan, he allegedly fled his country in 2014 and spent at least two years in Libya before reaching Europe.


On October 14, 2019, the bodies of two Iraqi Kurds were found on a beach in Touquet, along the coast of Calais.

Hussein Mofaq Hussein, 22, and Soran Jamal Jalal, 17, reportedly drowned after falling into the water while attempting to cross the Channel in a small boat.

Meanwhile, on August 18, 2019, the body of Iraqi Niknam Massoud, 47, was discovered on August 23 in the water of the Thorntonback wind farm, off the Belgian coast, wearing a palm and a life jacket. rescue made from a backpack. filled with empty plastic bottles.

He had reportedly left Calais to swim to the UK five days earlier, after being denied asylum in Germany after missing a registration deadline.

Nine days earlier, Mitra Mehrad, a 31-year-old Iranian national described by her family as a “bright and intelligent woman who wanted to start a new life”, drowned in the English Channel as she tried to reach the United Kingdom. United on a canoe with 19 others.

Rescue teams were dispatched to help the distressed canoe and her body was later found in Dutch waters: like so many before and after her, she had drowned.


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