AFP, June 13, 2023
Some 200 migrants cast shadows in the faint early sunshine across the dunes of Gravelines beach in northern France, anticipating a police chase as they attempt to cross the waters before them to England.
At least 7,610 people have been detected in small boats off Britain’s coast so far this year, according to UK government figures, amid a political push to stop the flow.
In nearby camps, the flux of new arrivals has grown and the smugglers are determined to move quickly, the police source said.
Since the shipwreck that saw 27 die in November 2021, surveillance of crossings has been reinforced. But the number of those desperate enough to make the journey continues to climb, with a record 46,000 landings in England in 2022 and 8,000 rescued in French waters.
The CRS, a special mobile French police force, patrol the forested coastline where smugglers tend to hide their equipment. “They know we’re here, it won’t go through tonight,” said one officer.
An hour later, without a sound, they begin their descent to the water carrying on their shoulders two “small boats”, partially inflated. Families run into the sea, children in their arms.
Two police vans sweep across the beach, interrupting the effort.
Mothers stop, seemingly lost, with some continuing their futile mission to the water while others turn around for the dunes in confusion.
Police don’t arrest them, but rather turn them inland.
One woman throws her lifejacket to the ground in rage. Others, who say they come from Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq or Vietnam, look defeated.
They’re ready to do anything to get to England, despite the perilous voyage and its high price tag of 2,500 to 3,000 euros ($2,700 to ($3,200), they said. The money is entrusted to a third party and paid out once the migrants reach Britain.
“I already tried four times,” said one young Afghan. “We’ll try again.”