‘We’ll be back tomorrow’: The migrants risking it all – and the ‘rubber bullets’ – to get to the UK

If you want to understand why people are still risking everything to cross the Channel, let me take you to a quiet street near Dunkirk, where chaos is in the air.
A group of around 40 or 50 people – migrants who have just failed in their latest attempt to cross the Channel – are being corralled down the road. They are tired and bruised. The police are around them, like teachers trying to take control of an unruly school trip.

Behind, police officers on foot, shouting instructions in French that almost nobody can understand. The group turns, as one, and heads down a side road that leads to a field.

“Non, non,” shouts the policeman, exasperated. His head rolls back. “NON,” he bellows, then runs after them.
These people are mostly strangers to each other, united by the single aim of reaching Britain. We had seen the group 12 hours earlier, crossing another field, clearly on their way to a nearby beach, but then they disappeared from our sight, heading off down an alleyway between houses.

Image: Rishi Sunak has vowed to reduce small boat crossings in the Channel
Like so many people, they had attempted to make the crossing, and failed. This time, according to one of those we spoke to, the cause was the police, patrolling these beaches throughout the night.
As the group tried to take a boat to the shore, the police punctured it, rendering the vessel useless.


But that’s not all. They also claimed the police had used rubber bullets to disperse them.
Bich, a Vietnamese woman who we find sitting on the ground, tearfully exhausted, rolls up her trouser to expose a nasty, vivid bruise.
“We went towards the boat but the police shot at us. They destroyed the boat and it sank. And then they shot me.”
“Plastic pistols,” is how another man described the weapons, showing me a much bigger bruise on his thigh. A third has a circular bruise, with a dot in the middle, as if he has been hit by the top of a canister.

Image: Some of the migrants claimed they were shot with ‘plastic pistols’
The group was a varied bunch. Very often, over the years of talking to migrant groups of northern France, they have been united by background – one boat is full of Iraqi Kurds, say, while another is packed with Afghans.
But here, we found an international group.
Yes, Kurds, Iraqis and Afghans, but also Syrians, Vietnamese, Sudanese and, hidden behind a cap and jumper pulled over his mouth and nose, a man who told me he was from Morocco.
Some have been determined to reach Britain ever since they left their home countries. Others are more pragmatic. One more told me he had wanted to stay in France but had just been told he was going to be deported.

Image: Migrants seeking to cross the Channel exhausted after being stopped by police.
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“We have problems but we are being deported, so we want to go to Britain for a better life,” says one. “Deport, deport,” shouts another man.
So Britain may represent his last chance at asylum as a host of European nations start to increase the number of deportation orders they issue.
The European Union has just concluded a long-debated agreement on migration, intended to toughen both its borders and its resolve.
Sweden, France, Italy and plenty of others are using much tougher rhetoric about removing people from their territory who have been refused asylum. And the results are beginning to be seen.

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Germany, which opened its doors to more than a million people fleeing Syria, is among those increasing its number of deportations, with 20% more migrants sent away in the first two months of this year compared with the same period of 2023.
And then, of course, there is the UK’s Rwanda plan, designed to deter people from making these crossings, backed by the prime minister’s unequivocal promise to bring down the number of small boats crossing the Channel.
If they knew about the Rwanda plan, and certainly some did, then they shrugged it off as either ineffective, unjust or simply untrue.
“The UK cannot send me to Africa after what you have done to my country and my area,” said one Syrian man. He knew about the Rwanda policy and said it was “not true”.
“It is not safe in Rwanda so you cannot send people there,” insisted another person, perhaps unwittingly getting to the nub of so many parliamentary exchanges.
“There are people who are trying to escape from Rwanda because of what is happening there. So you cannot say it is safe.”

Image: Dinghies seen onboard a Border Force vessel in Dover. File pic: Reuters

There is a great deal stacked up against these groups of migrants. The British government doesn’t want them to come, they claim the police in the Dunkirk area have attacked them, the crossing is dangerous and expensive and there is a growing tide of antipathy towards migrants across much of Europe.
Yet none of these people seem deterred, promising to persevere, resolutely sure that reaching British shores will be a panacea to their woes.
“We will be back tomorrow,” says a young man with a wispy beard and a wide smile. “We want to get to the UK.”
His friend next to him simply grinned at me. “UK is good,” he said, with a thumbs-up.
The group amble off, back towards their camp near Grande-Synthe, a town that has become a magnet for migrants. They are exhausted and, in some cases, battered. But they will try again. Soon.

Source : Sky News