Monitoring France-UK crossings will make migrants take more risks, says activist

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By Anelise Borges
Asylum-seekers waiting in Calais for their chance to cross the English Channel.
Asylum-seekers waiting in Calais for their chance to cross the English Channel.   -  Copyright  Anelise Borges - Euronews

Two weeks after the deadliest shipwreck in the English Channel killed 27 migrants who were trying to reach the UK, little has changed for those who wait for a chance to attempt the dangerous crossing.

In response to the tragedy that took the lives of several migrants on November 24, the French government announced the creation of new police units to fight smuggling rings.

Along with the new French measures, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, also known as Frontex, has started flying over the channel to monitor illegal crossings.

Meanwhile in Calais, on the western coast of France, the former "jungle" is still a transit point for asylum-seekers trying to reach England.

A group of Afghans fled their country after the Taliban takeover and told Euronews they have nothing to go back to.

"It's more than a month since I last spoke to my family. I don’t know where they are. They already escaped. We have escaped from our homes. Everything we had in Afghanistan, we have lost. And now I don't know what we'll do. We are just waiting to see if we can go to England. Maybe there's hope for us," said Mohammed, one of the Afghan asylum-seekers.

According to French coast guard figures, over 15,000 people attempted to cross the English Channel in the first eight months of 2021, an increase of 50% compared to last year.

France has been trying to change the trend by investing heavily to discourage migrants from staying in the region – but to no avail.

At least 1,000 migrants remain in various encampments around Calais despite repeated mass eviction operations and restrictions on the provision of and access to humanitarian assistance, NGOs have claimed.

Human rights activist Ludovic Holbein describes France's policy towards refugees in Calais as "bullying".

Holbein called the latest measure a "militarisation" of the border that will do little to dissuade those who have already lost much along the way from attempting to finally reach the end of their perilous journey.

"They are on the edge here in Calais and ready to do whatever it takes to cross," he went on.

"People who want to go to England will continue to take all risks to go to England. And adding a plane and two helicopters will not change things. It will only push people to take even more risks, to maybe cross in even worse conditions... to leave when there is fog, not to be seen by planes."

While statesmen scramble to find a solution for the continuous influx of people, many of the asylum-seekers say they have no other choice but to carry on.

One of them, Adam, left his wife and two boys in Sudan to try and carve a better life for his family. He heard about the shipwreck but says it changes nothing.

Watch the full report by Euronews correspondent Anelise Borges in the video player above.