At daybreak, we approached Charles Devos, who had been watching.
Charles is a life-saver, like his father, grandfather, and grandfather before him. It was his boat that answered a Mayday call, reported that 15 people had drowned in the middle of the Channel.
When he arrived, it was terrifying. Charles draws body and body from water.
“Unfortunately we were only able to heal the dead,” he says, standing in a small office building near the town port.
He added that the boat would be about 30 feet[10 m]long, but it was not suitable for the Channel’s crashing waters. By the time he arrived, it was over. The boat had just turned into plastic.
“Was it a valve that came out or hit something? We don’t really know, but I don’t think it was a hit,” says Charles. “The boat was terrified. Seeing the people, drowning, and then rescuing them … was a tragedy.”
But will it ever change anything? Does death at this level affect singing? Charles shudders. “They continue to try to cross. Calais to Dover is the shortest route. Unfortunately, I think there have been a lot of departures.”
He is, of course, right. As we talked, some of the boats pulled away from the coast and landed on the shore. At the main station in Calais, we found many people, many wet, who had tried and failed to cross the Channel and are now being transported by bus to permanent accommodation. Try again, probably soon.
Hassan is a good example. An Iraqi Kurdish man is sleeping soundly near Dunkirk. “I’ve heard the story, I have to be honest, I don’t care about other people. If I wear the jacket of my life I can swim to the UK. My heart is strong and I can swim. It’s great when I get to the UK. I try every day.”
It is a word that sounds silly, but is born of pragmatism. Those who fill these camps in northern France have one goal in mind — to reach the coast of Great Britain.
They have often been for months, as well as thousands of pounds, to this day, fleeing police, border guards and enduring pain and discomfort. They are not easily deceived, even by dangerous myths.
The town of Calais was already tired of its reputation for attracting immigrants, and now the atmosphere is even worse. Many locals find the subject so frustrating that they cannot explain it; some criticize the lack of police and say Calais was drawn by temporary immigrants who have been backed up for almost two decades.
But there are others who think the answer lies in better care and stronger living conditions, so as to include migrants in the areas around them.
The French police often play their own game in two ways, releasing many local police officers as a powerful demonstration, but they watch as boats are being lowered onto the beach.
The simple fact is that there are no easy answers. The UK and France both blame each other for not doing enough, while the tide of pressure to move to Britain is wide and varied.
For a long time, migration has been seen as a myth, full of political, economic and social questions. But now it has a terrible history. Outside in the cold, mysterious waters of England, 27 people died tragically as they tried to reach Britain.
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