‘I’m fed up’: Desperate migrants are still prepared to risk their lives on small boats

In the migrant camps in northern France, it’s Mother Nature that calls the shots. 

Many of the people staying in makeshift tent villages are waiting to catch small boats to the UK.

Today, it’s the weather which has disrupted some of those crossings rather than an announcement from Westminster.

“I’m going because my wife and my son live in England,” 54-year-old Izzet tells me.

Like most of the refugees and migrants we meet, he’s unaware of the planned crackdown.

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Migrants determined to reach UK despite government crackdown

He explains his wife is sick with cancer in the UK.

He’s worried she could die before he hears if his visa application has been granted so he’ll get to her any way possible.

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“If you go on the small boats, you could die, and if you get caught in the UK you could get deported and never be able to go back – will you still try?” I ask.

“Yes,” he replies, “I’m fed up. How long have I been separated from my wife and son? How long have I been separate? I’ve been 10 years, no see my son.”

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‘Government will act now to stop boats’

The perilous Channel crossing is often the final leg of a long journey.

Many of those waiting to go have fled war.

Some have been abused and beaten on their way to the boats but like 19-year-old Afghan, Jaber, they won’t give up on their UK dreams.

“If they send us away we will come back,” he says. “And if they send me to Rwanda, I haven’t committed a crime, so I will come back.”

The criminal gangs operating along the coastline are also seemingly undeterred.

As we film, we hear deals for future crossings being made and the weather is checked.

Breaking the grip of traffickers won’t be easy.

Smugglers earn hundreds of thousands of pounds every year running the Channel routes.

Read more:
Annual cap on migrants entering through safe routes unveiled
Is there a safe route to the UK?

They’ve told Sky News in the past that even if people were sent to the Amazon they’d keep on trying to get to the UK.

It’s for this reason that some of the charity workers who help in the camps fear tougher rules could make the illegal crossings riskier.

“I think there’s a very good chance that it could get more dangerous. People are going to want to take riskier routes to try to go and be hidden. There are going to be higher levels of exploitation when they get to the UK because they’re going to be pushed underground,” says Jess Sharman, operations manager at Care4Calais.

In northern France, the desperation of migrants and refugees feeds their determination and until safer routes are established, smugglers will keep risking people’s lives.