Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 September 2019

Iraqi man drowned trying to reach the UK discovered off Belgium

The 48-year-old was found wearing a life vest made from empty water bottles

This image provided by the Marine Nationale (French Navy) shows migrants aboard a rubber boat after being intercepted by French authorities, off the port of Calais, northern France AP
This image provided by the Marine Nationale (French Navy) shows migrants aboard a rubber boat after being intercepted by French authorities, off the port of Calais, northern France AP

The body of an Iraqi man, who drowned while attempting to swim across the English Channel from France to Britain, has been found off the Belgian coast.

Authorities in Belgium discovered the body of the 48-year-old near the holiday resort of Zeebrugge on Friday. The Bruges prosecutor’s office said the man had been found wearing a life jacket improvised with empty plastic bottles.

He was identified by identity papers he was carrying in a small plastic bag.

Carl Decaluwe, the governor of western Flanders province said it was the first time the body of a migrant had been discovered in his jurisdiction, according to AFP.

It is believed the man lost his life while attempting to reach Britain from a beach in northern France. He was found drifting near a wind farm 30 km from the Belgian coast.

Clare Moseley the founder of the migrant outreach group Care4Calais told The National the loss of the Iraqi man was “shocking” and the manner of his death showed the desperation of migrants in northern France trying to reach Britain.

“It is devastating but it also just shows people at the end of their tether. They are coming from thousands of miles away. They aren't well educated about the risks. They don't understand how, deep, busy and far the channel is,” Ms Moseley said.

“They are past caring. One of the biggest problems we have in Calais ... we have to fight against the depression and despair,” she added.

Ms Moseley also explained that further clamping down on the migrants would not deter them. “The more security is put in place the more people will die and get hurt but the one thing that won't happen is they won't stop coming,” she said.

The death of the Iraqi man comes as Britain grapples with a new wave of migration from mainland Europe across the English Channel.

On Tuesday three small migrant boats were towed into Dover trying to reach the English coastline from France. The UK border force was aware of the incident involving roughly 20 suspected migrants including a woman and a baby. All of the migrants have said they were originally from Iraq and Iran.

Almost exactly the same number of people were rescued on Monday trying to reach the UK from France.

A spokesperson for Britain’s home office told The National that the death of the Iraqi man on Friday was a “tragic incident,” adding “our thoughts are with the individual involved and their family and friends”.

Britain has continued to warn migrants against trying to reach the UK over the 33 km stretch of water. “Anyone seeking to swim across the Channel or to cross this dangerous stretch of water in a small boat is taking a huge risk,” the spokesperson said.

“The home secretary is in discussions with the French authorities about this issue and we continue to work closely at all levels with France,” they added.

The Home Office has confirmed Britain’s home secretary is to meet with her French counterpart Christophe Castaner on Thursday in Paris to discuss the two nations’ bilateral approach to the migrant crisis in the north of France.

Under current arrangements UK Border Force personnel have been patrolling the channel using drones, CCTV and night vision goggles.

Last week, Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson warned migrants illegally crossing the channel that they would be sent back. Since January The UK has returned more than 65 people who arrived illegally in small boats.

In the same period of time some 1,450 migrants have been rescued either by British or French coastguards, more than double the number who attempted to cross the Channel in the whole of 2018.

Updated: August 27, 2019 07:23 PM

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