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The increase in isolated tragedies in recent weeks had not had the same shock effect. The heavy human toll of 27 people who died trying to cross the Channel from France to England on Wednesday reminded us how much the situation has worsened over the past few months around Calais and the issue of migrants.

According to data from the British authorities, supplemented by a United Kingdom news agency, more than 25,700 people who made the crossing on “small boats”, makeshift boats, were counted in 2021. While the he year is not over, it is more than three times the total recorded in 2020, underlines the BBC. There are several reasons for this.

o Strengthening land controls

The long-standing reinforced controls on the port of Calais had deported some of the attempts to the Channel Tunnel a few years ago. In this context, but also under the effect of Brexit, border controls have been tightened on the road. The “small boat” route is therefore increasingly considered in an attempt to reach the British coasts, some thirty kilometers away.

o Conditions in Calais

For several months, police operations have multiplied in France to dislodge the thousand migrants living in Calais, in camps, since the dismantling of the “jungle” in 2016. According to a count relayed by the NGO Human Rights Watch in October, the police carried out more than 950 eviction operations in Calais in 2020, and 90 in Grande-Synthe. Concretely, several thousand tents and tarpaulins were seized there. These police operations notably motivated a hunger strike by several activists and a priest in November, which pushed the government to send a mediator there.

o The weather which precipitates some departures

The authorities expected a classic drop in attempted crossings with the onset of winter. On the contrary, some departures are rushed before the weather deteriorates. Rescuers pointed out, in early November, the rather lenient conditions explaining an increase in attempts. According to a fisherman quoted by Le Parisien, the departure of the dead migrants Thursday was precisely precipitated by several announced days of poor navigation conditions.

o The networks of smugglers who organize themselves

Thursday’s drama took place on a “long boat”, a fragile inflatable boat with a flexible bottom, more and more used since the summer and on which more people are piling up. A 22-year-old Syrian who arrived in England the same day explained to AFP that he had paid 2,000 pounds (2,375 euros) to a smuggler in France to have a place on board an inflatable boat that was larger and stronger than the small ones. boats heavily used in recent years. Boats often found deflated by rescuers when they intervene.

This does not prevent attempts to cross aboard kayaks, always numerous, in one of the busiest sea lanes in the world. A situation which prompted Decathlon to withdraw these products from certain stores in northern France.

o The political context in the United Kingdom and in France

Prime Minister Boris Johnson having made the fight against immigration a political slogan, the subject agitates the public debate across the Channel. Before the summer, the Parliament thus began to adopt a reform of the right of asylum marked by a hardening of the rules. The stated objective: to discourage illegal immigration, by treating asylum seekers differently depending on whether they have arrived in the country legally or illegally. Legislative adaptations that can push migrants to hasten their departure to arrive before they are put in place.

Members of an association for the defense of migrants gathered on Thursday evening in Calais, after the most dramatic accident in the English Channel. (FRANCOIS LO PRESTI / AFP)

The geopolitical situation, and in particular the complicated relations between London and Paris, also complicates the emergence of solutions. Legal avenues of entry into the UK to seek asylum are almost non-existent. And since the 2003 Touquet agreements, France has been in charge of controlling the British border, located on the French side, in Calais. Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson estimated that France was not “up to the situation”. What Emmanuel Macron replied to expect the British “to cooperate fully and refrain from instrumentalizing a dramatic situation for political ends”.

letelegramme Fr Trans

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