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Crossing the Channel

Guest blog from our partners Refugee Women’s Centre - from original on Facebook

“The smugglers put eighteen of us in a five metre boat. The youngest was two years old. We all fell in and were pulled back to France. The outdoor temperatures were -2C that night. We’ve been trying to get to the UK by lorry for seven months now. There is no life here, I am a teacher in my country, I hope I will be a teacher again.”

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Sonya sits in the hospital waiting room, waiting for her burns to be redressed, as she has done every day now for the last four weeks. As the boat toppled over, the mix of petrol and salt water on her skin resulted in severe burns across her body. She speaks great English, and is a feminist. Once she gets to the UK she wants to work for women’s rights organisations.

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“An MRI scan to assess trauma in my brain after the boat capsized. My children, three and seven both fell in the sea. I'm depressed, I die a little more inside every day here.”

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Tonight Farman heads to the beach. The last few nights he has watched the helicopter scan the coastline for people in boats every hour. When he entered Europe 4 years ago with his family he never imagined they’d still be here. They tried to claim asylum before, in a European country they loved, and that took great care of his very disabled 15 year old sister. Their claim was denied, and with continued IS attacks in Iraq, returning home is not an option. They have friends and relatives in England, crossing by boat seems the only way.

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“On Christmas Day we succeeded! It’s been nine months since we left my home, and my friends. In Calais mum and dad were sad, and in the mornings the police would come and take our things. The boat was very scary and now I draw a lot of pictures of boats. Now we are in a hostel waiting for a house in England. I feel safe, for the first time in years, and I can’t wait to start school.”

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“Go separately. Your children cross the channel first, and then you can join them in England after a few days. I’m scared. You can’t argue with smugglers, I’ve seen what they do to people who argue. They have our life and our family's future in their hands. Now our children are with my brother in England, and I wait for chance.”

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These are a few snippets of conversations we’ve had with displaced families living in both Calais and Dunkirk, who have resorted to these desperate measures.

The recent boat crossings have created a media storm and, while this may have been an opportunity to emphasise the deep rooted issues in hostile European immigration policies and increasingly violent and impenetrable borders, the perspective of those most entrapped by the lack of legal routes has been omitted.

Over five hundred people sleeping outside woke up to a blanket of snow this morning. Police violence in France, family in the UK, years of denied asylum applications in other European countries, whatever reason it may be that people are choosing to make this dangerous crossing; right now, this is our border.

 
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Source: Independent, 25 December 2018

Source: Independent, 25 December 2018

 
“Over 500 people sleeping outside woke up to a blanket of snow this morning”

“Over 500 people sleeping outside woke up to a blanket of snow this morning”

Refugee Info Bus - Calais CRS clearances are an almost daily event