Third migrant dies in a week crossing English Channel

Hundreds continue to attempt the crossing despite bitterly cold conditions on the northern French coast

French police patrol a beach in northern France used by migrants trying to cross the English Channel. AFP
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A migrant has been found dead on a beach near Calais, northern France, the third person in a week to die attempting to cross the English Channel in small boats.

The person was found on the beach of Wissant on Thursday, with a water-filled boat nearby, said French officials.

Two people suffering from hypothermia were taken to hospital.

Hundreds daily have continued to attempt to cross one of the world’s busiest waterways to reach Britain, despite the increasingly cold weather.

Crossings can take hours, with most small boats intercepted by border officials during the journey across the Channel, which measures just 33 kilometres at its narrowest point.

Another migrant died while attempting the crossing on Wednesday, after being pulled unconscious from the water, while a third is missing, feared dead.

Migrants queue for food at a makeshift camp in Calais, France. PA

Hundreds more migrants were rescued this week by British and French authorities during a mass attempted crossing.

French police were so overwhelmed that they wrapped rescued children in blankets and put them in the boots of police vehicles while they tried to work out what to do with them, according to local reports.

Three people are feared to have drowned last week after their boat went off course during the attempt to reach Britain.

Separately, a train struck and killed a migrant from Eritrea who was among a group of migrants walking along the tracks, near Calais.

The issue of small boat crossings is a hot political topic on both sides of the Channel with political leaders trading barbs over who is to blame.

More than 21,000 people have attempted to make the crossing this year – a record and more than double the figure of last year.

At least 853 migrants crossed the English Channel to the UK on small vessels on Wednesday.

Police have linked the switch to small boat crossings to tightened security at Channel ports – which has made it more difficult for migrants to travel to England hidden in vehicles – and criminal gangs exploiting the desperation of thousands seeking a new life in the UK.

Most still arrive in lorries but police say that the gangs have identified high profits for little initial outlay by buying unseaworthy small boats with underpowered motors and filling them with fee-paying migrants.

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel told Parliament this week that 70 per cent of those who tried to cross by small boat were single men who “are effectively economic migrants. They are not genuine asylum seekers.

“These are the ones who are elbowing out the women and children, who are at risk and fleeing persecution,” she said.

Ms Patel has previously promised to make the small boat crossings an “infrequent phenomenon” and make it financially unviable for smugglers.

But she has failed to limit the increase, despite striking deals with France on border security that has cost the UK tens of millions of pounds.

The mayor of Calais blamed the UK for fuelling the crisis because it had failed to tighten its laws to dissuade migrants from travelling.

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, in south-east England. PA

“We know that a migrant who arrives in England is taken care of. They are housed, they have an income,” Natacha Bouchart told The Telegraph. “For them, England remains an El Dorado, but the British Government does not have the courage to review its legislation in the field.”

The Calais authorities face strong opposition to their own policies for targeting the makeshift camps of migrants attempting to reach Britain. Rights groups have criticised the use of pepper spray against migrants and the seizure of their belongings.

Three people, including a Catholic priest, are on hunger strike over police tactics in the region to seize tents and sleeping bags to prevent the build-up of informal camps near the coastline.

Rights group Utopia 56 said campaigners attempted to block a police operation to remove an informal camp in Calais on Thursday. The campaigners want a halt to the evictions for five months during winter.

Updated: November 16, 2021, 9:42 AM