CALAIS, France, Sept. 10 (Reuters) – Mustafa Suleiman, 21, is determined to reach Britain and will not be deterred by threats from London to intercept boats carrying migrants illegally in the English Channel and take them away. send back to France.
Suleiman, who fled the Sudanese region of Darfur in 2019, has attempted to make the perilous journey through some of the world’s busiest sea lanes twice in the past year. Both times he was thwarted by French police before leaving the beach.
“We will try and try until the last day of our lives,” Suleiman told Reuters in a camp on a vacant lot on the outskirts of Calais.
If the French police are preventing more passages than in previous years, they have only partially stemmed the flow. The migrants are too numerous, the shore too long and the smugglers too talented to escape safety. Read more
Britain is irritated by the numbers running through and accuses France of not doing enough to secure its borders.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has divorced Britain from the European Union on a pledge to ‘take back control’ of the borders and this week his Tory government approved plans to spin the migrant canoes in the middle of the Channel. Read more
France said it deserved better than such a “gesticulation”. Charities have said the plans could violate maritime laws.
Suleiman has said he would be ready to take to the high seas if ever a British patrol vessel stood between him and the British shores.
“(Britain) is my only solution,” he said in faltering English.
In front of the main Calais hospital, a smell of urine hung in the air and soiled tissue papers littered the narrow sandy paths that meandered through the scrubland. The luckiest migrants had tents, others rested in the open air on plastic sheeting.
Every day, humanitarian groups distribute meals and local authorities install water taps for the hundreds of migrants who gather at the site.
16-year-old Afghan Ali Husseini only arrived in the northern port city a day earlier after a weeks-long journey from his home province of Uruzgan.
Husseini said he fled on foot and by car across the Iranian border as the Taliban swept through his homeland. His parents had urged him to leave, but could not afford to take his two younger siblings with him.
“I’m trying to find a new country, a new life without war,” the teenager said. “Britain is my final destination. It’s a good country. I can finish my studies and be safe.”
Husseini had already heard tales of dangerous journeys in overloaded rubber dinghies.
“We have no choice. I have to do it,” he said.
Some UK lawmakers have said UK recovery tactics will never be used as they will put migrants at risk of drowning.
The number of people trying to reach Britain in small boats – around 13,000 so far in 2021 – is tiny compared to the flow of migrants to countries like Lebanon and Turkey, which host millions of refugees. The International Organization for Migration reports that 40,830 migrants have landed by sea in Italy this year on September 2 and nearly 21,000 in Spain.
The question has become a bugle call for politicians in Johnson’s party. But for many migrants, Britain’s position hurts.
“It’s inhuman,” said a second Sudanese man named Adam A. “They want to throw us into the water”.
Reporting by Richard Lough and Forrest Crellin Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky
Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.