“I’ll try to get over”: people who camped in Dunkirk still hope to reach Britain | Immigration and asylum

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Everyone in the camp on the outskirts of Dunkirk, little more than a scrappy collection of tents without toilets or running water, has heard of the 27 people who drowned on Wednesday.

Everyone knows the risks. But everyone says they still have the same plan, to try to get on a boat to Britain, because they do not believe that 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 is no life” at home, a simple phrase repeated by many in and around the camp. He admits that it is very dangerous to travel by boat to Britain. there will be big waves ”, but he is ready to make the dangerous journey in the hope of eventually making money to send home.

Like Mira, many in the camp say they came via Belarus. Muhammad, who looks much older than the 17 years he says he is, said he flew to Qatar, then Minsk before crossing the border into Poland. After that, cross Germany to the north France was uncomplicated – but the next part was not.

But charities say the number of people in camps in the north of France has fallen in total due to the autumn cold
Charities say the number of people in camps in the northern part of France has decreased in total due to the autumn cold. Photo: David Levene / The Guardian

“The police found me and moved me to a hotel near the Spanish border. But I do not want to go to Spain, I want to come to England. I have friends in Nottingham, in London and Birmingham, he said. “So I came back here and I’ll try to get over and join them” – to end a journey that has already taken him more than a month.

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

Campsites such as the one outside Dunkirk, which is located by a canal and closed railway line, have been handed over to the mercy of the French authorities, where charities say police raids can take place as often as every other day.

As a result, the page is extremely basic; there is minimal protection against the cold, with heating from an open fire during the day. There are food aid and charities that provide free wifi and electricity so people can huddle around and charge their cell phones, but there are no toilets.

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

Ten days ago, a nearby place near a shopping center was broken up by order of the French Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin. The directive came after the number of migrants, the majority of whom are young adult men, had more than doubled from an estimated 400 to more than 1,000.

The change in numbers, it seems, came after the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, opened up his country to people hoping to come to Europe. But charities say the number of people in camps in northern France has fallen in total due to the autumn cold.

Iraqi Kurds dominate the camp near Dunkirk, but people from countries such as Sudan and Eritrea tend to locate in nearby Calais. “In and around Calais alone, we believe the number is now closer to 1,000; it was 2,000 before the summer,” said Álvaro Lucas, coordinator of the charity Refugee Info Bus, which provides advice and support.

What has given the crisis a more prominent place is the growing number of people trying to cross the canal by boat, with a greater risk to life. Matt Cowling, an operations coordinator with Care4Calais, a charity, said: “What’s so frustrating is that we’re only talking about 1,500 or 2,000 people who want to come to the UK; it feels like a problem that could easily be solved if it existed. a different approach. “

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