Migrants: in Calais, the appeal of the United Kingdom remains stronger than the dangers of the crossing

Audio 03:35

A migrant camp in Calais on November 27, 2021 (illustrative image).

AP - Rafael Yaghobzadeh

Text by: Juliette Gheerbrant Follow

4 min

In Calais, despite the danger of crossing the Channel, the United Kingdom remains an El Dorado for many migrants.

Others go the other way but are left to fend for themselves once back in France. 


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From our special correspondent in Calais,

Appointment has been given in front of Calais station.

Mathilde arrived late because she had to drive a man to the hospital, she explains.

Every day, the Utopia 56 association goes out to meet migrants.

Loaded with pockets filled with lists of useful contacts, plans and schedules for food distributions, showers, recharging laptops, hairdressing ... Mathilde engages in conversation.    

Four very young children play and run around their parents, they go home, explains Mathilde. " 

From spring, families flock to Calais in droves to try to pass with children of all ages: babies, newborns ..."

Crossings are also possible in winter, despite the weather conditions, details the young woman.

Rather, it is the survival conditions that are impossible in Calais in winter, and parents know very well that they are not going to let their children freeze to death in a tent. There is no reception solution, there is nothing offered by the city of Calais to shelter these families so they return to European countries which have previously refused them. 


The United Kingdom, a disillusionment for some

The exchange takes place in German as often here because many migrants have lived on the other side of the Rhine.

But Mahmoud's case is different.

If he returns to Germany, it is not because he failed to cross, it is precisely because he succeeded, but that the disillusionment was great.

No access to healthcare, no work, a lot of expenses ... 


I spent four months in the UK.

But over there it does not go.

I am going back to Germany.

I had been there for four years.

I had two interviews for the refugee status claim, the first in 2018, the response was positive.

And in 2021 I renewed and the answer was negative, he


I thought it would be better in England but actually not.

Too bad for the papers, I'm going back to Germany.

Two of my children were born there, in 2016 and 2020.


►Also read: Calais meeting on migrants: a Frontex plane over the European coast

That day, two young Syrians, one still a teenager, are also preparing to leave for Germany.

They don't want to be registered for fear of having trouble.

The oldest, a refugee in Germany for four years with valid papers, came to look for a young cousin who traveled from Deraa to Calais in a few months.

But the crossing to England is too dangerous, he gave up.

Half-word he lets guess that he knew some of the passengers of the

sinking of Wednesday, November 24

Death is present all the time


Among these passengers

Maryam Nuri Mohamed Amin

, 24, left Erbil in Iraq to join her husband.

His name is added to a long list: nearly 340 dead since 1999.

For Juliette Delaplace, project manager at Secours Catholique, the Channel is already a cemetery.


Since this summer, death has been present all the time.

I don't know the number anymore.

 "And she scratches the first names: Ali, Mohamed, Abdallah ...

 " The day

before yesterday we again found an unidentified body on the beach of Sangatte, so that makes at least seven people dead since the beginning of the summer and we have also knowledge of at least six people missing in shipwrecks


27 faces

27 stories

27 lives https://t.co/1bB5Y41S1Q

- Utopia 56 (@ Utopia_56) November 28, 2021

Secours Catholique denounces the fact that countries are shifting the responsibility: it is not necessary to wait to act, explains Juliette Delaplace. “ 

France has the possibility of putting an end to these tragedies. If we had a little political courage ... For example, stopping the fight against fixing points, stopping the daily harassment of exiled people, it must do so, it is an obligation, she


The second thing is that there are many people who testify that if France welcomed them, they would not attempt the crossing. France has the possibility of suspending, for example, the application of the Dublin regulation to allow people to seek asylum here and there are many who would


But like all those involved in this crisis, the young woman is more worried than optimistic and the Calais station will still see families in transit looking for a country that welcomes them.


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