A teenage migrant who died after being run over by a lorry in Calais said he was fleeing “oppression and death” in his native Sudan, a friend told The National.
The boy, who has been identified only as Yasser, died attempting to reach the UK in search of an “honest living” on the final leg of the journey from northern France hidden inside a lorry, said the friend.
He travelled from Sudan to Libya before crossing by boat into Italy, said his friend Mohammed. He then made his way to Belgium and France.
The boy was run over as he tried to climb on board 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.
Mohammed, 20, told The National that the teenager had encountered hostility in France from locals who cut holes in his tent during the cold weather and blocked their route as they tried to get food and water from humanitarian groups working with the migrants.
“He left Sudan escaping oppression and death but sadly and unexpectedly he faced the same in France,” he 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.”
Sudan has been affected by decades of conflicts that have killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced many more.
The country’s last military dictator, Omar Al Bashir, was overthrown in 2019 but communal violence and economic hardship continues under a military-civilian transitional leadership.
Calais is a key departure point for migrants attempting to reach the UK. Many make the trip to join relatives in the UK, which is seen as a country of opportunity by migrants.
The UK government has bolstered security and proposed new laws that could criminalise migrants in an attempt to make the country less attractive.
The Home Secretary has blamed people-smuggling gangs who feed on the demand from “mainly male, economic migrants” in camps outside Calais.
But migrants have continued their efforts, with groups travelling from sub-Saharan Africa and crossing into Europe by lorry and boat before gathering in Calais. Criminal gangs have exploited the desperation of many to pack dinghies in the hope they reach UK waters before they are intercepted.
Yasser was the most recent of about 300 people who have died in and around the English Channel since 1999 while trying to cross the narrow but busy waterway, according to the Institute of Race Relations.
“He has wanted to look for an honest living since he was a child,” said Mohammed. “I first met him in Italy a few months ago.
“He was a sweet, kind-hearted, positive man who always had a smile on his face and never left an opportunity to help others.
“He used to make us feel safe and encourage us to never give up.”