Rubber dinghies used by migrants to try to cross the English Channel apprehended by French security officials on Aug. 20, 2020. Credit: Reuters
Rubber dinghies used by migrants to try to cross the English Channel apprehended by French security officials on Aug. 20, 2020. Credit: Reuters

Abdulfatah Hamdallah was found dead on a beach in northern France on August 19. The 28-year-old Sudanese migrant had tried to cross the Channel to the UK after his asylum application in France was rejected, according to media reports.

Abdulfatah Hamdallah was the first migrant to be found dead on the coast of the northern French region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais this year. He had attempted to cross the English Channel and on Wednesday, August 19, his lifeless body was discovered on a beach in Sangatte, a town near Calais, thousands of kilometers from his country of origin. The deceased had no personal effects on him besides a simple transport document with a date of birth (1992) and a photo.

According to the local newspaper, La Voix du Nord, the 28-year-old Sudanese national was originally from Khartoum – a city he fled "due to the war" – and had arrived in Calais two months ago after crossing several countries.

Migrant rights groups in Calais contacted by InfoMigrants confirmed the presence of the young asylum seeker in the "Sudanese camps" area of the city’s sprawling camp, adding that due to the dismantling of the camp, migrant tents are now scattered across the city.

A football enthusiast described as ambitious and generous by those who knew him, Hamdallah ended up in Calais to try to cross into the UK, according to the local newspaper.

After arriving in Italy, he had been in France since at least 2018 and had applied for asylum in the western French city of Nantes, but was refused. “He wanted to live in France because he spoke a bit of French, but his asylum application was unsuccessful," one of his relatives told La Voix du Nord.

A dingy ‘for children's games, not for crossing the Channel’

Before making his way to France, Hamdallah had crossed several countries, including Libya, where he did a stint as a maintenance worker, according to the local daily.

On Wednesday, August 19, Hamdallah’s corpse was identified by another migrant who had attempted to cross the Channel with him and was discovered in a state of hypothermia on the beach. The latter explained that Hamdallah could not swim.

In the vain hope of reaching the UK, despite the currents and the heavy traffic in the English Channel, the two companions "pilfered an inflatable dinghy from a beach hut," according to the French daily, Libération. This dinghy was "made for children's games, not for crossing the Channel," the Libération report explained. "They couldn't find any oars, so they took shovels to paddle straight ahead, they imagined, towards the British Isles," the newspaper said.

>> Read more: 'At night, the UK looks close, but once water starts entering your boat'

Hamdallah is one of hundreds of migrants who have attempted this perilous crossing in recent weeks. In 2019, four people were found dead at sea and on a French beach after similar disastrous attempts. 

One of them, Mitra Mehrad, a 31-year-old Iranian woman with a master's degree in psychology, is said to have drowned, watched by horrified, helpless other migrants, after jumping into the water to try to stabilise their sinking boat.