Community, Diaspora and Immigration

True toll of the migrants dying to get to Britain

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At least 15 migrants have been killed around the French port of Calais this year, it emerged last night.

Men and women are taking huge risks in their desperate attempts to reach the UK, often trying to leap on to moving lorries bound for Britain.

Four migrants died in just one week in the port town earlier this year.

The death toll was branded ‘shameful’ by campaigners, who warned more would perish due to ‘unacceptable’ conditions in their makeshift camps as temperatures plummet over the winter.

The grim figures, calculated by local charities and the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), seemed to support Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart’s warning to MPs in Westminster last year that foreigners were ‘prepared to die’ to get to the UK.

She said they believed Britain was like the mythical lost city of gold, El Dorado.

Earlier this month, an Eritrean man was knocked down and killed as he searched for a lorry to board.

Last month, one man died attempting to jump from a motorway bridge on to a moving lorry, and two more were killed in nearby Dunkirk when the wagon in which they were hiding caught fire.

And in October, a 16-year-old Ethiopian girl was killed as she crossed the road leading to the Channel Tunnel.

More than 2,500 migrants, some with children as young as three, have flocked to Calais and are living in shanty towns, without sanitation or running water, yards from the perimeter fence of the port.

Ruthless trafficking gangs are openly operating in the town and are offering to smuggle people into the UK for between £800 and £2,500, an investigation found.

And some said smugglers were coercing vulnerable young girls into having sex in return for a passage to the UK.

Last night Vincent Cochetel, the European director of UNHCR, said the situation was ‘shameful’ and warned that more people would freeze to death in the makeshift camps over the winter.

‘The conditions are totally unacceptable and are not consistent with the kind of values that a democratic society should have,’ he added.

‘This is a shameful situation to witness in the heart of the European Union.

‘We are seeing more and more people taking crazy risks because they feel they have nothing to lose so they take whatever chance they can to get to a place where they feel their life is going to be better or to where they think they will be protected.’

He claimed the conditions in Calais were so dreadful that they were now worse than those at refugee camps in Turkey, where hundreds of thousands of people have fled the bloodshed in Syria.

Juliette Delaplace, who works for Secours Catholique, a charity that has been helping migrants in Calais for ten years, said: ‘No other year has seen as many migrants die.

‘They are jumping on lorries and taking more risks.’

Last week, a Freedom of Information request revealed how a record 3,000 immigrants a month are being caught trying to sneak into the country illegally.

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