Kurds, others converge in French camp, seeking to reach UK

PARIS (AP) – At least 1,500 migrants live in tents on muddy terrain in northern France as increasing numbers flee Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries seek to cross the Channel and reach the UK, aid workers say.

In Grande-Synthe, a town east of the port city of Calais, migrants – including some families with young children – converged on the site of a former industrial complex. Local authorities have warned of the dire sanitary conditions and overcrowding in the region, the risks associated with the fast approaching winter and the escalation of tensions between migrants and traffickers which often turn violent.

The French Home Secretary and the British Home Secretary were to speak on Monday on the situation.

With its ports and tunnel to cross the English Channel, northern France has always been a magnet for people seeking to cross to Britain, fueled by the traffickers’ promises of a better life there. . The crossings are a source of friction between the UK and France, with UK officials saying France should do more to prevent boats from leaving. France, meanwhile, said Britain should do more to help French authorities deal with migrants and stop traffickers.

Families and young people, meanwhile, continue to arrive. Those gathered in Grande Synthe are mainly Iraqi Kurds propelled via trafficking networks, according to Yann Manzi, founder of the Utopia 56 aid group. Most try to cross in small inflatable boats, because the police have made it more difficult access to trucks and ferries.

They are “crowded” at the Grande Synthe camp, and “more and more desperate” as the weather deteriorates, making boat crossings more risky, he said.

More than 23,000 people have reached the UK in small boats across the Channel this year, including 1,185 on Thursday, a single-day record. In addition, thousands more have been rescued at sea by the French maritime authorities.

“We have a problem which is that they come from France and in the end, if the French authorities do not or cannot control these departures, it is very difficult for us to turn them back at sea”, Prime Minister Boris said on Friday. Johnson.

French Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin fended off criticism of Johnson on Monday, telling BFM-TV that “we don’t need lectures from our British friends who are our allies, but I would like to remind them that we are neither their collaborators nor their auxiliaries “.

Local authorities in northern France have been warning for months that migrants continue to flow to Calais and the Grande-Synthe forest, east of Dunkirk.

Many migrants in the port area want to cross the Channel to claim refugee status, seek economic opportunities or because of family and community ties. The French authorities say that another big draw is the laxity of the British rules towards migrants without residency papers.

“It is the responsibility of the state,” said the mayor of the commune of Grande-Synthe, Martial Beyaert, of the dire conditions in which migrants have been living for weeks. He told BFM-TV that he has repeatedly called on the government to help and set up reception clusters along the coast and cap the number of residents in each shelter at 100 or 150. .

“With this and with the help of humanitarian associations, we could improve the conditions somewhat,” Beyaert said.

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