Upon arriving in Calais, Gulwali Passarlay believed that hope for a new, safe life had long been within reach. But that belief soon fell apart.
“I had a really frightening experience in Calais. I was jailed several times for 18 hours. We had absolutely no dignity left,” said Passarlay, an Afghan emigrant. in Calais, the port town on the north coast of France.
Passarlay first fled his war-torn homeland at the age of 13. Wandering across two continents, Passarlay passed through the hands of many human traffickers, was jailed and constantly abused, only in the hope of reuniting with his brother in England.
Almost 15 years have passed since Passarlay arrived in Europe and is now a well-known author and activist. But for many others desperately trying to get to Britain, the challenge continued.
Nearly 4,000 people have crossed the dangerous sea from northern France to southern England since the beginning of the year, often in fragile, overcrowded boats. Like Passarlay 15 years ago, many are unaccompanied children.
A young migrant girl stood aboard the British Border Guard’s DHB Dauntless ship in Dover, on the south coast of England on September 11. Photo: AFP.
Since the 2015 refugee crisis, this is the first time Europe has seen such a large number of immigrants. In August alone, more than 650 asylum seekers arrived in the UK. For the most part, the UK is the last stop on a tiring journey of more than 4,800 kilometers from the Middle East and North Africa.
Although everyone has their own reasons to seek a new life in the UK. But all share a desire to escape the shabby temporary refugee camps in France.
In August, more than 2,000 people, including men, women and children, crowded in tents or shelters in coastal towns like Calais and Dunkirk. And many other migrants continue to come in every day.
Access to food, drinking water and sanitation systems is also limited, amid concerns of Covid-19 outbreaks.
“Crisis in Crisis,” said Maddy Allen, representative of Help Refugees, a charity group dedicated to helping refugees. “The living conditions in the refugee camps were very bad. Those were places that were hard to live in before Covid-19 appeared and now unbearable.”
Matthieu Tardis, an expert on migration policy at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), said that migrants only see the UK as a salvation, not entirely a promised land.
“Some migrants have relatives or a community of people from the same country in the UK. There, the language of communication is also English. It is a much more common language than French,” Tardis said.
“In the fall of 2016, when the main camp in Calais was removed, we saw a lot of people being offered other accommodation and when we suspended the Dublin Regulation, most of them remained in France. They applied for asylum. France and many people have been accepted, “Tardis added.
The Dublin Regulation of the European Union (EU) states that migrants must apply for asylum in the European country to which they arrive first, mostly Italy, Greece and Spain, and be returned to their home country. if found in another member country.
“The poor living conditions they experience in France, Italy and many other EU countries have motivated them to go elsewhere and think that in the UK it will be better. But they usually do not apply for asylum there because the Dublin Regulation remains. In effect, they will be returned to other countries in the EU “, said Tardis.
The IFRI expert said that immigrants to the UK are still considered illegal. However, the British economy is not strictly regulated like France, so there are more job opportunities. “It’s a free economy that needs a lot of cheap labor and expats accepting those jobs,” he said.
But after Brexit, will the EU Dublin Regulation remain in the UK. “The UK has proposed to the EU an approval mechanism that allows them to continue to maintain the Dublin Regulation. However, the EU does not want to discuss this matter so it is a unilateral proposal,” Tardis said.
“The UK will certainly be easier to negotiate with France on migrants than with the EU. However, that will depend on what France wants to get out of this deal,” Tardis said.