ENTERTAINMENT

While the dispute with France over canal crossings rages, SUE REID speaks to those waiting in Calais


Priti Patel took the risk of inflaming relations with France by claiming migrants fled the country to the UK because they viewed it as racist and feared being tortured.

The interior minister's remarks, made on a private conference call with Tory MPs, angered some French politicians, one of whom accused her of "not thinking much".

Here SUE REID deals with the worsening migrant crisis in Calais.

Under the hot sun in northern France, the long beach, lined with dunes and dotted with bright umbrellas, is full of vacationers.

Two young Africans sit on a low wall above them, one with an unsuitable wool hat over his ears.

While she's spending her time showing on ferries between Calais and England, she is accompanied by her 16-year-old compatriot Yahya Idriss from distant Sudan, who rides a bike given to him by a local charity.

Under the hot sun in northern France, the long beach, lined with dunes and dotted with bright umbrellas, is full of vacationers. Two young Africans sit on a low wall above them, one with an unsuitable wool hat over his ears

Migrants sleep poorly in an industrial area in Calais. Gone are the semi-formal camps that used to be Calais' outskirts. They housed water fountains, toilet blocks, mobile charging stations and bell tents, while visits to charities in food trucks were waved through by the police watching

Migrants sleep poorly in an industrial area in Calais. Gone are the semi-formal camps that used to be Calais' outskirts. They housed water fountains, toilet blocks, mobile charging stations and bell tents, while visits to charities in food trucks were waved through by the police watching

The beach where this scene took place is called La Rotonde. It is on the outskirts of Calais, where thousands of migrants wait to sail 21 miles to the Kent coast in dangerous, overcrowded rubber boats.

During the day, La Rotonde is a beach vacationer's paradise. But after holidaymakers leave at dusk, it becomes a hot spot for human traffickers who push migrants out to sea in flimsy ships – and charge exorbitant prices.

Many of the small boats that brought more than 1,000 migrants to the UK this month, including a heavily pregnant mother and a man swimming with empty soda bottles on his body, started their journey six or seven hours earlier from the coast of La Rotonde.

The number of successful canal crossings peaked two weeks ago with a record 235 in just one day.

La Rotonde beach is popular with human traffickers as it is easily accessible from central Calais for migrant customers. You can go there or take the bus which takes 17 minutes, ”says Henri, a bar owner who has a beach hut nearby.

"There are easy access points from the street where traffickers take their boats in trucks."

It's not the first time I've been told that La Rotonde is becoming increasingly popular with people smugglers.

While she's spending her time showing on ferries between Calais and England, she is accompanied by her 16-year-old compatriot Yahya Idriss from distant Sudan, who rides a bike given to him by a local charity

While she's spending her time showing on ferries between Calais and England, she is accompanied by her 16-year-old compatriot Yahya Idriss from distant Sudan, who rides a bike given to him by a local charity

Last year an Iranian migrant named Dariush took me there in my car. He had lived for a year in a migrant camp, one of the few in Calais approved by the Council at the time, and hoped to get to England by boat.

Standing at the entrance to the beach, he came to a street lined with holiday homes, aptly named Rue de la Mer. "See the sand dunes," he said.

"This is where the migrants hide until late at night and it's time to go down to the boats." The traffickers call them on their cell phones. "

When Dariush left for England last summer, there was every chance it came from La Rotonde. He wrote to me before his trip: “Pray I won't drown. I'll start right away. "

I haven't heard from him since then, although his Iranian friends, who are still in Calais, told me that he had arrived in Kent.

But not everyone is so lucky. A few days ago a weak boat was caught in the canal's currents when it ran out of fuel just outside La Rotonde, killing nearly ten migrants as they headed for the UK in the early hours of the morning. Their ship was washed ashore further along the coast closer to the ferry terminal.

The long line of African, Afghan and Iranian people - the vast majority of whom are men under the age of 30 - winds back as far as the eye can see into the forests they now have to live in because there is nowhere else

The long line of African, Afghan and Iranian people – the vast majority of whom are men under the age of 30 – winds back as far as the eye can see into the forests they now have to live in because there is nowhere else

Migrants in the center of Calais look out over the ferry terminal. The first warning sign that the French government was starting to tighten its approach to migration came last year when President Emmanuel Macron warned that the country could not "take in" anyone who wanted to live there

Migrants in the center of Calais look out over the ferry terminal. The first warning sign that the French government was starting to tighten its approach to migration came last year when President Emmanuel Macron warned that the country could not "take in" anyone who wanted to live there

A sign for Bleriot Plage (beach) is pictured above. One of the first Gallic volleys was the Mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, who claimed in a statement she delivered to a French television station from a promenade not far from La Rotonde beach that Britain had also exposed the people of Calais to the migration situation for a long time & # 39;

A sign for Bleriot Plage (beach) is pictured above. One of the first Gallic volleys was the Mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, who claimed in a statement she delivered to a French television station from a promenade not far from La Rotonde beach that Britain had also exposed the people of Calais to the migration situation for a long time & # 39;

A French Gendarmerie Coastal Patrol ship is pictured off the coast of Bleriot Beach

A French Gendarmerie Coastal Patrol ship is pictured off the coast of Bleriot Beach

The sunset is pictured at the top of the dunes of Bleriot Beach, where migrants hide before crossing the English Channel

The sunset is pictured at the top of the dunes of Bleriot Beach, where migrants hide before crossing the English Channel

Holiday homes can be seen in Bleriot Beach with the port of Calais in the background

Holiday homes can be seen in Bleriot Beach with the port of Calais in the background

Above is a town square in Calais where migrants can be seen late in the evening. Many spend their days idling in the city's shopping streets, much to the surprise of tourists

Above is a town square in Calais where migrants can be seen late in the evening. Many spend their days idling in the city's shopping streets, much to the surprise of tourists

A Sky TV crew with night vision cameras captured their escape as the inmates – presumably from Sudan – ran up the sand and waited until the first light to return to Calais.

They joined hundreds of others from all over the world waiting in the port. They do so in utter misery, falling under bushes in wooded areas while detritus accumulates around them. At night they wander through the city center, sleeping on benches and under trees, some on pieces of cardboard.

Many spend their days idling in the city's shopping streets, much to the surprise of tourists.

Even the beaches, where migrants have not been seen until recently, are no longer unlimited, as 1,200 people live here, twice as many as last summer.

One might wonder why the locals who live near the beach don't whistle what's going on at night.

But when I was watching there one evening last week, the residents simply turned off their metal shutters and locked them at 10 p.m.

"They know it's going to happen," said a resident of the nearby coffee bar.

"They are afraid that the human traffickers will come to their homes and threaten them, make life miserable, if they say something about outgoing boats."

As the French make them undesirable, it strengthens migrants' belief that the streets of London, Birmingham and Manchester are the right places. And with every day they live in misery in Calais, that determination grows stronger

As the French make them undesirable, it strengthens migrants' belief that the streets of London, Birmingham and Manchester are the right places. And with every day they live in misery in Calais, that determination grows stronger

A French radar station is pictured up on Sangatte Beach monitoring canal traffic. Macron's stance coincided with a push in Calais to restore the city's image as an attractive tourist destination, rather than a hub for migrants smuggling their way into Britain by truck or boat

A French radar station is pictured up on Sangatte Beach monitoring canal traffic. Macron's stance coincided with a push in Calais to restore the city's image as an attractive tourist destination, rather than a hub for migrants smuggling their way into Britain by truck or boat

And so, a growing humanitarian crisis continues to take shape as migrants' queues for sandwiches and bottled water, distributed by charities near the city hospital at 2:30 p.m., grow daily.

The long line of African, Afghan and Iranian people – the vast majority of whom are men under the age of 30 – winds back as far as the eye can see into the forests they now have to live in because there is nowhere else.

Gone are the semi-formal camps that used to be Calais' outskirts. They housed water fountains, toilet blocks, mobile charging stations and bell tents, while visits to charities in food trucks were waved through by the police watching.

Today these sanctuaries have either been demolished or surrounded by barbed wire so that no one can enter.

Andy Brown, a senior volunteer with the UK charity Care4Calais, said, "It's all about creating a hostile environment that actually encourages attempts to get to England." You only put your child at sea when it is more dangerous (for them to live) on land. We have 15 year olds here who sleep in trenches. "

The first warning sign that the French government was starting to tighten its approach to migration came last year when President Emmanuel Macron warned that the country could not "take in" anyone who wanted to live there.

It has largely been viewed as a political maneuver to prevent the country's increasingly popular right-wing anti-immigration parties from receiving support from the working class.

Macron's stance, however, coincided with a push in Calais to restore the city's image as an attractive tourist destination rather than a hub for migrants smuggling their way into the UK by trucks or boats.

The UK-France debt game flared up again last week when Home Secretary Priti Patel threatened to launch Royal Navy patrols in the Canal to control the growing number of flotillas.

A heated meeting followed between Immigration Minister Chris Philp and his French counterpart, which meant that no agreement could be reached with the French on the return of migrant boats.

One of the first Gallic volleys was the Mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, who claimed in a statement she delivered to a French television station from a promenade not far from La Rotonde beach that Britain had also exposed the people of Calais to the migration situation for a long time & # 39 ;.

The UK-France debt game flared up again last week when Home Secretary Priti Patel threatened to launch Royal Navy patrols in the Canal to control the growing number of flotillas. Last week migrants were seen taking selfies while waiting to be rescued in the canal

The UK-France debt game flared up again last week when Home Secretary Priti Patel threatened to launch Royal Navy patrols in the Canal to control the growing number of flotillas. Last week migrants were seen taking selfies while waiting to be rescued in the canal

Locals, she added, would support her view as they were tired of the never-ending stream of newcomers.

Bouchart later said: “If the migrants want to cross the Channel, it is because the British called them. I appeal to Boris Johnson to change the methods of receiving and dealing with migrants. "

Deputy Mayor Philippe Mignonet told French newspapers that migrants risk crossing the sea “because they can work in the British black economy if they want, because there are no controls, either on the street or at work. I fear a sea tragedy one day, but the British blame us for their own hypocrisy. "

The tight political exchange has done little to stop the migrant chaos in Calais. Just beyond the outskirts is a town called Coquelles, which is the headquarters of the police.

Here migrants are brought for questioning if they are caught in French waters on the boats of traffickers heading for the white cliffs of Dover.

The headquarters houses a courtroom as well as a number of cells and interview areas.

However, behind this detention center is a yellow building with no sign. The British-French offensive against migrant traffickers in northern France is to take place here according to plans by Theresa May and her French counterparts.

According to migrant charities, it will cost more than a million euros to build, and inside there are banks of CCTV screens that monitor migrants and activities in the port and on the beaches. But what good all this is to everyone's guess – because the human traffickers still rule the area.

Behind this detention center is a yellow building with no sign. The British-French offensive against migrant traffickers in northern France is to take place here according to plans by Theresa May and her French counterparts

Behind this detention center is a yellow building with no sign. The British-French offensive against migrant traffickers in northern France is to take place here according to plans by Theresa May and her French counterparts

Even the charities that help migrants have started outsmarting the authorities.

I spoke to Kamal Sadeghi, 39, who arrived in Calais last month with his lawyer wife Niki, 33, and 13-month-old daughter Sava. He told me that his beautiful family had been approached by a charity to serve as promotional fodder, to break their nerves and to raise funds.

Kamal, a singer and carpenter, fled Iran because he was persecuted there after converting to Christianity. His wife's family, who had subscribed to the strict Islamic regime, had objected to their marriage.

Even the beaches, where migrants have not been seen until recently, are no longer unlimited, as 1,200 people live here, twice as many as last summer. A migrant is seen taking a beach shower on Plage de la Rotonde

Even the beaches, where migrants have not been seen until recently, are no longer unlimited, as 1,200 people live here, twice as many as last summer. A migrant is seen taking a beach shower on Plage de la Rotonde

The three fled via Slovenia, where they felt unwelcome. They now live in a tiny bell tent in the woods near the city hospital, along with other Iranian migrants hoping to get to the UK.

He said, “I was surprised when the charity found me here in my tent. They wanted to take pictures of my family because they thought people would give them money when they saw how we had to live. Of course I refused. "

Like most migrants here, he dreams of getting on a trafficker’s boat but added: “You are asking for £ 3,000 to bring our family to your country. I do not have so much money. I'm afraid of the traffickers anyway.

“They are dangerous men and they have agents all over Calais to do business with. This is not a nice place. I don't know what we'll do next if we can't get to the UK. "

Kamal believes there is no future in France. Applying for asylum is difficult, the process is lengthy and even those who do find it difficult to find work.

In the meantime, as a sign of France's renewed hostility towards migrants, I was told that the Calais authorities were cracking down on charities that provide food to the hungry.

"They come one day but not the next," a 22-year-old Afghan, Mahmoud, told me when I stopped to speak to him near the hospital.

“It is a way of wearing down migrants and making us feel unwelcome. It's a form of torture. They hope we will give up and go, but we have nowhere else to go.

“I tried to get to the UK by truck, the last time was a few hours ago. We hope England is kinder to us than France. "

One thing is clear. As the French make them undesirable, it strengthens migrants' belief that the streets of London, Birmingham and Manchester are the right places. And with every day they live in misery in Calais, that determination grows stronger.

In the late evening migrants sit in the town square of Calais. The number of successful canal crossings peaked two weeks ago with a record 235 in just one day

In the late evening migrants sit in the town square of Calais. The number of successful canal crossings peaked two weeks ago with a record 235 in just one day

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