'It's not possible to stop us': The desperate migrants on French coast ready to die to reach Britain

·4 min read
AT SEA, ENGLAND - JULY 22: An inflatable craft carrying migrant men, women and children crosses the shipping lane in the English Channel on July 22, 2021 off the coast of Dover, England. On Monday, 430 migrants crossed the channel from France, a record for a single day. To stem the rising numbers, the British and French governments announced yesterday a deal under which the UK will pay over £54 million and France will double the number of police patrolling the beaches from which migrants launch their boats. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Migrants in camps on the French coast have said they are willing to face death to get to Britain. (Getty)

Refugees and migrants in camps on the French coast have described how they will do anything to reach Britain - even face death. 

Their determination to reach the UK is despite attempts by the Home Office to discourage them from making the journey, including social media ads urging them not to come. 

About 2,000 people are reportedly living in northern France, many sleeping rough in camps around Calais and Dunkirk, as they wait to cross the English Channel in small boats or by stowing away in lorries.

Record numbers have already risked their lives in 2021 by attempting the journey in overcrowded and unseaworthy dinghies.

Watch: Lifeboat crews' role in migrant rescues is humanitarian work - RNLI boss

The crossings have continued despite attempts by the Home Office to make the route "unviable".

Efforts have included spending more than £23,000 on social media ads targeted at refugees and migrants living in France between December and April, a Freedom of Information request by the PA news agency revealed.

Read more: Nearly 600 migrants intercepted as attempted English Channel crossings continue

The ads on Facebook and Instagram featured slogans such as 'There is no hiding place', 'Don’t put your or your child’s life in danger' and 'We will return you' – translated into Kurdish, Arabic, Persian and Pashto.

The Home Office says the adverts reached thousands of people, highlighting the risk to life of making the journeys, but since the five-month campaign ended more than 7,000 people have gone on to cross to the UK in small boats, according to data compiled by PA.

AT SEA, ENGLAND - JULY 22: An inflatable craft carrying migrant men, women and children crosses the shipping lane in the English Channel on July 22, 2021 off the coast of Dover, England. On Monday, 430 migrants crossed the channel from France, a record for a single day. To stem the rising numbers, the British and French governments announced yesterday a deal under which the UK will pay over £54 million and France will double the number of police patrolling the beaches from which migrants launch their boats. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Migrants have said the social media adverts urging them not to try to make the crossing won't stop them. (Getty)

But the ads have been dismissed as "extremely naive", with those targeted saying they won't stop them from trying to get to the UK.

One 16-year-old boy from Afghanistan said: "I need to go to the UK. I am ready for anything to try and get there. I will try until I die."

One Sudanese man who saw the pictures on Facebook said: "We know that crossing and taking a boat is really dangerous, but we don’t have the choice. UK is our only chance and better than Calais."

Several spoke about how they are willing to die for the chance of a better life in the UK.

A 20-year-old Sudanese man said: "I am ready to die, but I still have faith that I will cross OK", while a 17-year-old boy living in northern France said: "It is not possible to stop us, we can’t stop our journeys now.

"We have seen much worse than this and we have already put our lives at risk so nothing can stop us now."

The founder of a charity helping those in France accused the Home Office of wasting money and called on the government to step up to help refugees.

A 23-year-old man from Afghanistan said he also saw the images.

He said: “We are not here for fun. We have problems in our country, can’t even celebrate Christmas or Eid.

“We will accept these if it means UK. Seen worse than this in Kabul.”

Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais, said: "I’m genuinely horrified by the lengths this government will go to to avoid helping desperate people.

"Refugees risk their lives to escape from some of the world’s most dangerous countries, fully aware that this could be the last journey they make.

"It’s extremely naive of this government to think that social media ads will deter them. This isn’t a choice."

Dan O’Mahoney, clandestine Channel threat commander for the Home Office, said: "We are seeing an unacceptable rise in dangerous and unnecessary small boat crossings.

"The adverts are aimed at dissuading migrants in France and Belgium from making dangerous attempts to enter the UK.

"They have reached thousands of migrants highlighting the risk to life of making these journeys and providing information on claiming asylum in the safe country they are in."

Watch: Drone footage shows dozens of migrant dinghies stacked up in Dover compound

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