Tue. Sep 26th, 2023


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New floating barrier in Calais will make migrant crossings ‘even more dangerous’

3 min read

Migrant small boats cross The Channel on record breaking day

The local authority in Calais set up the controversial floating barrier in an estuary that leads to the English Channel.

The barrier, which was deployed on August 10, is the latest attempt to stem the number of migrant crossings across the Channel.

Earlier this week, it was revealed that just over 19,000 migrants have made the crossing this year alone.

The floating dam has already sparked controversy, with experts warning that the floating structure, composed of buoys and thick metal chains, could endanger migrants’ lives.

The line of yellow buoys is fixed by a pair of concrete anchoring blocks on the banks of the river.

The Pas-de-Calais Prefecture, who set up the barrier, intend to “complicate” the work of smugglers.

Authorities claim it will stop taxi-boats from reaching the shore and picking up migrants with a view to crossing the Channel.

They claim illegal migrants often wait in the water for the taxi boats and risk hypothermia due to the cold.

This comes as many smugglers have had to adapt their journeys due to growing scrutiny from authorities.

Boats previously left directly from the French beaches – but this is now impossible due to the number of guarded patrols.

Smugglers have since turned to estuaries, like that at Étaples, to make the crossings.

Since the beginning of 2023, 22 taxi boats have been uncovered on the Canche river, with an average of 46 migrants per boat, according to the Pas-de-Calais Prefecture.

Defending the barrier, the Prefecture said: “The actions of human trafficking networks, motivated solely by the lure of profit, put would-be crossers in mortal danger on overloaded boats that are not suitable for navigation and have no lifejackets.”

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Pierre Roques from L’Auberge Des Migrants, a migrant support group in France, warned that the barrier will make the journeys more dangerous.

He said: “It doesn’t change their desire to get to the UK, it just means they have to travel further, which increases the crossing time.

“As long as England is in front of us, these people who need protection and don’t have it elsewhere will try to cross the Channel to reach the UK.”

Mr Roques has long called for the French and British Governments to work together to “set up safe passageways so that people don’t have to risk their lives to cross a few dozen kilometres, which is completely absurd and cruel”.

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In 2022, 45,755 people reached the UK after crossing the English Channel in small boats, according to the Home Office.

Mr Roques dismissed the fear around the number of crossings, saying: “In the end, it’s small in relation to the population of Europe and the UK.

“So there is no migration crisis at the moment, and all these people could easily be welcomed.”

The floating dam has been compared to the recent barrier set up between the border of Texas in the US, and Mexico.

A fight over the 1,000-foot-long string of buoys and saw blades in the Rio Grande is currently taking place in court.

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