Despite Channel tragedy, more migrant families gather in Dunkirk
Hundreds of desperate migrants today huddled around camp fires on the outskirts of Dunkirk, many still hoping to cross the Channel – just one day after the worst tragedy on record.
Photos from the Grand-Synthe commune on Thursday showed small children held by their parents at encampments along a disused railway line and near an overpass beside a canal.
They squatted on the muddy ground of the litter-strewn camp, and crowded around aid vans delivering essential supplies at the site which has become their new home after French police moved them on from another camp.
Many of the people, most of them from the Middle East and Africa, are still intent on heading to the beaches where unscrupulous gangsters will charge them extortionate fees to ferry them across the perilous Channel.
The danger of the crossing was brought into sharp focus on Wednesday when 27 people drowned after their inflatable capsized in the frigid waters.
The victims of the tragedy were today said to include 17 men, seven women, and two boys and a girl thought to be teenagers. One of the dead women was reported to have been pregnant.
Pictured: A group of three small children walk together down the middle of disused railway tracks, around which tents were pitched by migrants for a camp. Many of the young children could be about to make the same perilous journey that saw 27 people lose their lives a day earlier when a dinghy capsized off the coast of Calais
Adil Ali with his son Malik aged 13 months at a camp in Grand-Synthe near Dunkirk, France
Migrants camped along a disused railway line crowd around camp fires in Grand-Synthe near Dunkirk on Thursday
Achmed Ali aged two and his sister Leya, six, at a new migrant encampment in Grand-Synthe near Dunkirk
Lya, from Iraq, poses at a makeshift migrant camp in Loon Beach, the day after 27 migrants died when their dinghy deflated as they attempted to cross the English Channel, in Dunkerque near Calais, France, November 25, 2021
Pictured: A woman with her two sons from a camp near the Dunkirk suburb Grande-Synthe, where a group of around 500 migrants have gathered, with some hoping to reach the UK despite the Wednesday being the deadliest day of channel crossings on record
Pictures from the Grande-Synthe camp today showed people wrapped in warm clothing, huddled among small tents placed irregularly in a damp clearing (pictured)
A woman walks through the camp, strewn with litter on a muddy track beside a canal on the outskirts of Dunkirk
Migrants stand near tents at a makeshift migrant camp in Dunkerque near Calais, France, November 25, 2021
Ahmed, 21, a refugee from Afghanistan warms his hands beside a fire as a rug hangs out to dry at a camp near the canal on the outskirts of Dunkirk
A group of migrants grab supplies from the back of a van at their makeshift camp on a disused railway line outside Dunkirk
A young man carries a large log, presumably for use as fire wood or to build a shelter, at the encampment along an old railway line
Migrants camped beside a canal in Grand Synthe near Dunkirk, they are among thousands who hope they can make it to the UK for a better life
Pictures from the Grande-Synthe camp today showed people wrapped in warm clothing, huddled among small tents placed irregularly in a damp clearing.
Shopping trolleys to carry their belongings were scattered around the camp, while leftover food and other litter could be seen on the floor.
One woman at the camp was said to be sharing a tent with five children, while another could be seen feeding her two young sons – one of whom she was carrying.
A young girl called Lya, who had made the journey to France from Iraq, posed for a press photographer wearing a bright pink coat and holding a doll.
Another group of three small children were pictured walking together down the middle of the disused railway tracks, around which the tents were pitched.
Migrants in Calais said that they were more determined than ever to reach the UK despite the 27 people drowning crossing the Channel yesterday.
Speaking in France, a Kurdish computer programmer called Kochar, 25, told MailOnline: ‘It is not going to stop people from wanting to come to England. Everything in life is a risk, and it is worth a big risk to get to England.
A group of migrants stand around a large pot filled with rice at their camp near Dunkirk
A group of migrants sit around a camp fire in Grand-Synthe near Dunkirk
A child sits on top of an adult’s shoulders as vans roll up to hand out supplies to the migrants
The plastic back of a shopping trolley burns in a fire at the camp strewn with rubbish
A group of migrants are handed supplies from the back of a van in Grand-Synthe near Dunkirk
Pictured: A group of men start a fire in a makeshift camp on Thursday
Pictured: Tents belonging to migrants in Grand Synthe near Dunkirk, France who still hope to cross the English Channel after a boat capsized off the French coast
Another Iraqi Kurd called Aram, 41, said: ‘There are some people who will be put off if they think they are going to die, but most people have no choice.
‘We have to try to get to England. ‘I will get on a boat some time. It might be this week or it might be next. I got a call from my friend who told me about the people who had died. I did not know any of them.’
The migrants told how heartless people traffickers have slashed their prices for a place in a boat across by 500 euros since news of the tragedy filtered through to people living in the makeshift camps around Grandy-Synthe.
Those hoping for a new life in the UK told MailOnline that the fare for a place in an open dinghy had been reduced from 2,500 euros to 2,000 euros.
Kochar said: ‘Last week it was costing 2,500 euros to get a place. But last night I heard it had been discounted by 500 euros.
‘It looks like the price has come down because of these people who have died. The people smugglers are worried about losing business – so they want to give a better deal,’ he said.
A family shuffle their way down a muddy path close to the migrant encampment in Grand Synthe near Dunkirk
A group of men huddle around a fire near a disused building covered in graffiti on the outskirts of Dunkirk
A trio of young men stand beside a wall covered with graffiti on the outskirts of Dunkirk
Migrants stand under a building and smoke cigarettes near an encampment on the outskirts of Dunkirk
A group of young men while away the hours in the freezing November weather near the migrant encampment at Dunkirk
A group of young men roaming the streets near the migrant camp at Grand Synthe near Dunkirk
Migrants in Calais (pictured on Thursday) said that they were more determined than ever to reach the UK despite the 27 people drowning crossing the Channel yesterday
Aram said: ‘I heard that the price had come down today. You hear messages from everyone. I am glad it has happened. It is still far too expensive.’
He paid 2,500 euros to reach Germany from Kurdistan via the route through Belarus, and another 500 euros to get to France.
MailOnline spoke to another group of half a dozen Iraqi Kurdish migrants who told how they came close to death after their overcrowded inflatable boat sprung a leak in the Channel, and they were pitched into the freezing water.
They said they had paid 2,500 euros each to be among 52 passengers crammed into a boat which left a beach near Dunkirk last Friday night.
This is the first picture of the flimsy and dangerous dinghy that sank off Calais yesterday, killing 27 people including five women, some of them pregnant, and three children
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, by the RNLI, following a small boat incident in the Channel after 27 people died yesterday
The Dover lifeboat brings in more migrants who have crossed the Channel at dawn despite the deaths of 27 people yesterday
Police patrol a beach near Calais as the French authorities again failed to stop migrants travelling to the UK
The group who were standing in a bus shelter to escape the pouring rain outside an Auchan supermarket, said they had spent four hours motoring out to sea before disaster struck in the darkness.
One of them, a student called Ali, 22, mimicked the whistling sound of air escaping as the boat suddenly deflated.
He said: ‘The air came out and we all landed up in the water. It was so cold and we thought we were going to die. ‘Luckily everyone had lifejackets so we floated.
We were in the water for around 15 minutes and people were crying out before a French boat rescued us.
‘We had five young children and six women in the boat. It was a very dangerous situation and we were all terrified, but we were brought back here.
A group of people thought to be migrants wait on a holding bus after being brought in to Dover, Kent, following a small boat incident in the Channel after 27 people died yesterday in the worst-recorded migrant tragedy in the Channel. Picture date: Thursday November 25, 2021
The cliffs of Dover are seen in the early morning after a small boat incident in the English Channel, in Dover, England, Thursday Nov. 25, 2021
‘It is sad that people have died, but now we want to try again. It might be in one day or two days or longer. Right now, the weather is too bad to go.’
Another member of the group said: ‘In Kurdistan we have no money, no food and no life. There is Daesh and the Government is very bad, but England is good.’
Meanwhile, more people making the perilous journey across the Channel have been brought ashore in the UK following the deadliest day of the current migrant crisis.
A group wearing life jackets and wrapped in blankets were seen huddled together on board an RNLI lifeboat before disembarking in Dover on Thursday morning,
A joint search and rescue operation by the French and British authorities that was launched after a fishing boat spotted people in the sea off France was finally called off late on Wednesday.
27 people drowned just off Calais yesterday afternoon, sparking a war of words between Britain and France
Police in Calais detain a number of migrants wearing lifejackets after removing them from a bus before they tried to cross to the UK
UK received 37,562 asylum applications in the past year – highest number since 2004
Asylum claims made in the UK have risen to their highest level for nearly 20 years, according to new figures from the Home Office.
The backlog of cases waiting to be dealt with is also at a record high.
A total of 37,562 applications were made in the year to September – more than in any 12-month period since the year to June 2004 (39,746) and higher than the numbers seen at the peak of the European migration crisis in 2015 and 2016 (36,546).
The latest figure is up 18% on the year to September 2020 (31,966), although this will have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic amid restrictions on movement. There were 35,737 applications for the same period in 2019.
A total of 67,547 asylum applications were awaiting a decision at the end of September – up 41% year-on-year and the highest since current records began in June 2010.
French interior minister Gerald Darmanin said the loss of 27 lives was an ‘absolute tragedy’ as he blamed human trafficking gangs who promised people the ‘El Dorado of England’ for a large fee.
Mr Darmanin said the boat which sank had been very flimsy, likening it to ‘a pool you blow up in your garden’.
He was unable to state the nationalities of the victims, but said the two survivors were Somali and Iraqi and had been treated for severe hypothermia.
The French authorities have arrested five suspected people traffickers in connection with the incident, and the French prosecutors’ office said magistrates are investigating potential charges of homicide, unintentional wounding, assisting illegal migration and criminal conspiracy.
Britain’s immigration minister Kevin Foster said Britain had supplied a helicopter during Wednesday’s search for survivors and insisted the UK is ‘happy to look at doing more’ to support French efforts to prevent crossings of the Channel.
‘We have offered resources, we are happy to support their operations on the beach,’ he told BBC Breakfast, adding that ministers are ‘determined to smash this really evil business model’ of people trafficking.
But Calais MP Mr Dumont told the same programme that more patrols ‘will not change anything because we have 200-300km of shore to monitor 24/7’.
‘I think it’s time for both our governments to stop blaming each other and to try and talk to each other and find real solutions, not a crazy solution such as having more and more people patrolling, sending the British Army to the French shore,’ he said.
‘That is not acceptable and will not change anything.’
More than 25,700 people have made the dangerous journey to the UK in small boats this year – three times the total for the whole of 2020, according to data compiled by the PA news agency.
Figures released by the Home Office on Thursday showed that more than 37,500 asylum claims were made in the UK in the year to September, which is the highest level for nearly 20 years.
The backlog in cases also reached its highest point since comparable records began, with more than 67,500 asylum applications awaiting a decision at the end of September.