‘I’ll try to cross’: People camped in Dunkirk still hope to get to the UK | Immigration and Asylum

Everyone at the camp on the outskirts of Dunkirk, little more than a scattered group of tents with no toilets or running water, heard about 27 people who drowned on Wednesday.

Everyone knows the risks. But everyone says they still have the same plan, to try to take a boat to the UK, because they don’t believe death will come to them – and because of their hope for a better life.

Mira, an Iraqi Kurd, said he left the city of Sulaymaniyah because there was “no life” at home, a simple phrase repeated by many in and around the camp. He admits that boat travel to Britain is “very dangerous; there will be big waves”, but he is prepared to make the perilous journey in hopes of eventually making money to send it home.

Many in the camp, like Mira, say they came through Belarus. Mohammed, who looks much older than he says 17, said he traveled to Qatar, then Minsk before crossing the border into Poland. Next, cross Germany to the north France It was obvious – but the next part wasn’t.

But charities say the number of people in camps in France's northern region has generally decreased due to the cold autumn
Charities say the number of people in camps in France’s northern region has generally declined due to the autumn cold. Photo: David Levine/The Guardian

The police found me and took me to a hotel near the Spanish border. But I don’t want to go to Spain, I want to come to England. “I have friends in Nottingham, London and Birmingham,” he said. “So I’m back here and I’ll try to cross and join them” – to end a journey that has already taken me over a month.

Mohammed said he would have to find $2,000 to pay the people smuggler for a ferry trip that cost a fraction of that price. It was not immediately clear where the money would come from, though others in the camp said family members at home were paying on their behalf.

Camp sites like the one outside Dunkirk, which lies alongside an abandoned canal and railway line, are at the mercy of French authorities, with charities saying police raids can happen as frequently as every two days.

As a result, the site is very basic; There is minimal protection from the cold, with heating provided by open fires during the day. There are food aid and charities that provide free wi-fi and electricity, allowing people to gather and charge their cell phones, but there are no toilets.

People charge phones outdoors
Charities provide free electricity for people to charge their phones. Photo: David Levine/The Guardian

Ten days ago, a nearby site near a shopping center was dismantled by order of the French Minister of the Interior, Gerald Darmanin. The directive came after the number of immigrants, mostly young people, doubled from 400 to more than 1,000.

The change in numbers appears to have come after the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, opened his country to people hoping to come. Europe. But charities say the number of people in camps in France’s northern region has generally fallen due to the autumn cold.

The camp near Dunkirk is dominated by Iraqi Kurds, but people from countries such as Sudan and Eritrea tend to reside in nearby Calais. “Only in and around Calais do we think the number is now close to 1,000; it was 2,000 before that in the summer,” says Alvaro Lucas, coordinator of the charity Refugee Info Bus, which provides advice and support.

What has given the crisis even more prominence is the increasing numbers trying to cross the canal by boat, with even greater danger to life. Matt Cowling, operations coordinator at Care4Calais, a relief charity, said: “What is very frustrating is that we are only talking about 1,500 or 2,000 people who would like to come to the UK. He feels a problem that could easily be resolved if there was a different approach.”

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