The sinking of a makeshift boat (small boat), which occurred Wednesday, November 24 and claimed the lives of twenty-seven people, shines a spotlight on these migrants who are trying to cross the Channel to reach the British coasts from the vicinity of Calais.
The maritime prefecture of the Channel and the North Sea estimated, on November 20, that 31,500 people had attempted a crossing to the United Kingdom from the French coasts since the beginning of the year. On the British side, at least 25,792 migrants have managed to reach Kent, according to figures from the British Home Office, compiled by the Press Association news agency.
This represents more than three times more arrivals than last year (nearly 8,417 in 2020), and fourteen times more than in 2019 (1,823).
The Gris-Nez regional operational surveillance and rescue center (Cross) which coordinates rescues at sea in an area of competence that extends from the Belgian border to Cap d’Antifer, a few kilometers west of Etretat, underlines, in its last activity report, a « Massification of departures » in 2021 – « It is now a structural phenomenon, bound to last ». Due to the intensification of customs, administrative and health checks on the way to the United Kingdom, linked to Brexit, makeshift boats are becoming the preferred means of passage for migrants. The Cross also notes an increase in the average number of migrants per boat, from thirty to fifty people.
Following this accident, Paris and London, whose relations are stormy around migration issues, among others, agreed on « The urgent need to step up the fight against illegal crossings » during a telephone interview between the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and Emmanuel Macron.
On the side of associations, the urgency is to set up legal channels for migration. « As long as safe passageways are not put in place between England and France, or as long as these people cannot be regularized in France, there will be deaths at the border », told the World the manager of Utopia56.
Despite the approaching winter and the deteriorating weather conditions, the pace of the crossings does not show any sign of slowing down, as was the case at the end of 2020. Worse still, the records of the number of people who made the crossing continue to steadily. ‘to be exceeded: 1,185 on November 11, 853 on November 3.