An Iraqi migrant who tried to swim across the English Channel from France to Britain has drowned. His body has been found off the Belgian coast.
The 48-year-old migrant's body was discovered near a wind farm on Friday some 30 kilometers (18 miles) off the Belgian seaside resort and port city of Zeebrugge, according to the Belga news agency.
The Iraqi national was reportedly wearing a makeshift life jacket made of empty plastic bottles and carrying a small bag with his identity papers, the local prosecutor's office in Bruges said. It is thought he attempted the sea journey after failing to successfully obtain asylum in Germany.
"It's the first time we've found the body of a migrant," Carl Decaluwe, the governor of western Flanders province, told AFP Monday.
Strong currents in English Channel
Officials believe that the man drowned while trying to reach British shores from northern France. Currents in the Channel are thought to have transported his body to Belgian waters.
Eight days before the body was found, a Belgian sailor had spotted a man wearing a belt made of empty plastic bottles crying for help in waters off the French coast of the city of Dunkirk.
The sailor said he had tried to save the man, but he was pulled away by a strong current. He subsequently had informed the French maritime authorities of the incident, which took place on August 18.
Clamping down on economic migrants
The number of migrants trying to cross from France to Britain on rubber dinghies, makeshift boats or by swimming has been growing. France has been taking an increasingly tough stand towards economic migrants in particular.
While those classified as refugees continue to receive protection, France is trying to discourage economic migrants from making the journey to the country by giving little to no support to those deemed to have come to Europe in search of a better life rather than fleeing war or persecution.
Since the beginning of the year, some 1,450 migrants have been rescued either by the British or the French coastguard. This is more than double the number for the whole of 2018, according to official French figures.
With agency material from AFP