“You pass or you die”: Migrants in Calais risk their lives to reach the United Kingdom

Migrants in the French port city Calais said that constant police presence, falling temperatures and worsening living conditions are pushing them to risk their lives to reach the United Kingdom. 

“It’s taken me two years to get here since I left Eritrea and I’ve been living in Calais for five to six months and the conditions are very bad,” said a 34-year-old Eritrean migrant. “You pass or you die. We don’t have really any other options,” he added.

A 15-year-old Afghan migrant in Calais is another one of the many migrants who wants to attempt to reach the UK in the back of a lorry because of the dire conditions in Calais. 

“I’ll try to go at night to get onto the lorries. I think I’ve tried maybe 20 times to get to the UK on a lorry. The police have found me every time and then they take me to a detention centre for the day,” he said.

“The conditions here are terrible, you only need to look around here to see, I really don’t have to describe it to you,” the young migrant said. “We were sleeping in the woods nearby before but we felt unsafe there, so we are now sleeping by a train track. We light a small fire to keep warm and to cook our food out here.”

A 24-year-old Iraqi Kurdish migrant also attempts to leave Calais on a lorry every day due to problems with the police. “It is the same every day: I wake up and eat, sometimes maybe I will play football and then I will go to try to get on a lorry or a boat in the evening. If there is no chance then I will come back and sleep and then try again,” he said.

Travelling in the back of a refrigerated lorry is notoriously deadly. This October, the bodies of 39 Vietnamese migrants were found in a refrigerated truck in Essex. They had died from the freezing cold conditions in the truck as they were attempting to reach the UK. 

An smuggler in Spain was recently sentenced to four years in prison for transporting at least 100 migrants to the UK in the span of one year in refrigerated lorries. 

Despite this, many people still continue to attempt irregular journeys to Europe through fatal routes and dangerous hubs.

TMP – 04/12/2019

Photo credit: Edward Crawford / Shutterstock.com

Photo caption: A truck pulls into a safe zone in Calais, France. 01/03/19