French authorities intercepted hundreds of migrants attempting to cross the Channel this weekend and found one man dead on the beach at Sangatte | Photo: Reuters
French authorities intercepted hundreds of migrants attempting to cross the Channel this weekend and found one man dead on the beach at Sangatte | Photo: Reuters

On Sunday, French police announced that they found the body of a migrant on the beach at Sangatte on the Channel coast. The man did not have any documents on him but was wearing a life jacket. Prosecutors suspect he had been hoping to cross the water towards Dover in the UK.

"At 8 am on Sunday [October 18] morning the fire brigade and police were called to the beach front at Sangatte, just in front of the town hall," writes the French newspaper La Voix du Nord in a report on Monday.

"The body of a dead migrant ... thought to be between 20 and 40, of middle-eastern appearance" was found, the paper reported. The investigating magistrate for Boulogne-sur-Mer, the district where the man’s body was found, Pascal Marconville told Voix du Nord that the man had "no identifying documents on his body."

Drowned?

Marconville added that, "an examination of the body reveals no third-party intervention." Marconville explained to Voix Du Nord that there was an absence of trampling around the body, and the body's position on the beach made investigators believe that his body had been "rejected by the sea."

They believe the man died by drowning which is thought to have taken place "just a few hours before the discovery of his body." Prosecutors believe the man may have been on board one of a number of small boats which attempted to cross the Channel this weekend.

A full autopsy and investigations among the migrant community in Calais and Dunkirk are expected to be carried out this week in the hope that investigators can establish the identity of the man and the circumstances behind his death, according to La Voix du Nord.

Hundreds of migrants intercepted

This weekend, a French naval vessel La Garonne carried out several missions. In total, 11 attempts to cross the stretch of water were stopped on Sunday, comprising 191 migrants.

The navy brought 17 migrants back to Calais who were found on a boat in the sea; one woman and three children on board were found to be suffering from hypothermia. Another Iranian man, who was reported as being 35 years old, was also taken to the hospital.

Migrants crossing the English Channel, September 2020 | Photo: picture-alliance/P. Bonniere
Migrants crossing the English Channel, September 2020 | Photo: picture-alliance/P. Bonniere

On Saturday, the prefecture from the Pas-de-Calais region reported blocking nine attempts to cross the Channel, comprising 201 migrants. 102 migrants, in seven small boats are thought to have reached the British coast.

Another boat, also containing 17 migrants, reportedly from Iraq, Vietnam and Iran, had set out on Saturday evening and were picked up at 9 am on Sunday morning. They were also suffering from hypothermia and had to be warmed up in the police cars until 4:30 pm according to La Voix du Nord’s report. Women and children from the boat were taken to a reception center in Calais and the men were handed over to the border police and the French national police (La gendarmerie) according to La Voix du Nord. Two people from that boat were taken to hospital in Calais.

Died in August

Two months ago, on August 19, the body of a 28-year-old Sudanese migrant was found on the beach at Sangatte. The prefecture said that in 2020 so far this year three migrants have lost their lives attempting the crossing, for the whole of 2019, the number was reported as four.

So far, this year the French authorities say they have intercepted 479 attempts to cross the Channel towards the UK. 559 attempts have succeeded and made it to the UK, bringing in more than 7,000 migrants to the UK via the Channel this year to date.

'No choice'

Clare Moseley, the founder of Care4Calais which helps migrant communities in the French coastal town wrote on Twitter that it was "desperately sad to hear that another refugee has lost his life trying to cross the Channel. We can only imagine the pain his friends and family must be feeling now and our hearts go out to them."

In a series of tweets, she went on to say that "tragedies like this remind us of the incredible risk some people take getting into an unseaworthy craft in cold weather and trying to make it across a dangerous stretch of water. They take this risk because they are fleeing horrors in some of the most dangerous places on earth."

Moseley added that migrants in Calais were living in "grim and unsanitary conditions" and were "constantly harassed and abused by the authorities." She said that crossing the Channel was the only option for many because "there is no safe and legal way to have their UK asylum claim heard."

Kent online reported that "more than 100 people reached Kent shores" on Saturday and said the day had been a "busy day for the Border Force" in the UK.

 

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