Migrants reveal desperation to reach UK as they risk lives jumping on trucks at Calais

French security crackdown has failed to improve situation for would-be refugees, NGO warns

Crouching low to avoid being seen by French police, two young men await the chance to jump on a moving lorry which could take them from the French port of Calais to a new life in Britain.

Mohammad and Jaber, both originally from Sudan, fled war in their home country, horror in Libya and crossed the deadly Mediterranean Sea to Italy, but now face another dangerous hurdle in their bid to reach UK shores.

Like hundreds of other migrants living in Calais, the pair spend their days looking for a brief opening to sneak undetected on to a commercial lorry, which will then board a Channel Tunnel train to Kent.

Advocacy groups say many would-be asylum seekers have been unsuccessful going through the European refugee application system, or want to reach the UK for language reasons, or because of family and community ties.

Their efforts are more in hope than expectation. Just a fraction will be successful in the high-risk endeavour which can leave them with serious injuries, or worse.

In late September, Sudanese refugee Yasser Abdallah died after being crushed while trying to climb on board a lorry at a secure lorry parking area in the port city. He was left fatally injured in the middle of the road when the driver failed to notice anything amiss, authorities said.

Migrants also face hostility from their reluctant hosts, with NGOs claiming they face being tear-gassed and having their belongings confiscated.

“He left Sudan escaping oppression and death but sadly and unexpectedly he faced the same in France,” Yasser's friend and compatriot, Mohammed, said.

“He faced things very difficult for anyone to endure. He was living in a tent in the cold — people used to make holes in these tents despite the vulnerable situation that it places the person inside.

“He endured violence from people in France but then met his fate during this catastrophe. Yasser escaped death to meet death.”

Police estimate that two or three a day succeed, out of hundreds of migrants who camp in the Calais area, often in squalid conditions.

Politicians on both sides of the Channel have long argued about how best to tackle the issue, which has become yet another sticking point in Anglo-French relations.

Emma, an activist with the HRO-Human Rights Observers NGO, says a recent security crackdown in Calais has made the crossings riskier than ever.

“There are some places that are strategical to migrants for crossing attempts but there are many police forces there so it’s very complicated and very dangerous, we had a young person that died two weeks ago”, she said.

“We receive many phone calls so when they call us in case of a problem we can alert the emergency rescue services or the coast guards, or the NGO Utopia 56 that takes care of people who fail in their attempt to cross the channel and are at risk of hypothermia, as there is no public service that takes care of them.”

Updated: October 19th 2021, 1:25 PM
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