On a clear day the White Cliffs of Dover can be glimpsed from the sandy beaches of Calais, just 21 miles away across the dangerous waters of the English Channel.
Since the start of last year, nearly 20,000 people have risked death crossing to the UK aboard dinghies, kayaks and other small boats.
But the perilous sea journey has claimed many lives, leading to outpourings of grief and repeated promises of action from governments on both sides of the Channel.
A stone’s throw from the docks where migrants bundled up in blankets against the cold are brought ashore in Dover, there is a quiet memorial to those who have lost their lives seeking sanctuary in the UK.
The dangers of crossing the Channel were again laid bare on Thursday when a man died after a boat with 36 people on board, including families, began sinking 13 miles off the coast of Dunkirk.
They had set out in a desperate attempt to reach England, a journey which had deadly consequences.
Charities described the latest tragedy as a “sobering reminder” of the struggles faced by refugees and called on Home Secretary Priti Patel to change her strategy.
Deaths since 2019
Since the beginning of 2019, more than a dozen people have died or gone missing while trying to cross the English Channel in small boats.
They are among about 300 border-related deaths in and around the English Channel since 1999, according to a report by the Institute of Race Relations, the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal London steering group and French group Gisti.
– August 12, 2021
A man aged between 25 and 30 was among 36 people including families on board a boat headed for the UK when it began to sink.
Rescue teams from France and Belgium went to the scene while nearby vessels helped pull people from the water.
The man, who French prosecutors say is of African descent, suffered cardio-respiratory arrest and was airlifted to hospital in Calais but did not survive.
– March 2, 2021
Three people suffering from hypothermia were taken to hospital after their boat was reported to have capsized in the English Channel.
Firefighters aided two Sudanese nationals who reported that three or four people had been aboard their vessel.
A search and rescue operation was launched to try to find any other survivors and the third person was discovered close to the port of Calais.
Searches at sea for a possible fourth person continued but to no avail.
– October 27, 2020
Tragedy struck again in the Dover Strait in late October 2020, when a migrant boat sank off the coast of France claiming seven lives, including five from a Kurdish-Iranian family.
Three young children, including a fifteen-month-old baby, along with their parents, died, while two other adults are also believed to have lost their lives.
The family were named as Rasoul Iran-Nejad, 35, Shiva Mohammad Panahi, 35, Anita, nine, Armin, six, and Artin, 15 months.
They were from a village near the Iranian Kurdish city of Sardasht, West Azerbaijan province, northwest of Iran.
They attempted to move from France to the UK on a train twice, but both attempts failed, after which they then decided to reach the UK by sea, the PA news agency understands.
The incident is believed to be the single biggest loss of life during the current migrant crisis.
– October 18, 2020
Earlier the same month the body of a man was found on a beach near Sangatte outside Calais, at about 8am on October 18.
The prosecutor of the nearby town of Boulogne-sur-Mer, Pascal Marconville, said it was likely the man had drowned trying to make the crossing and that his body had washed up on the shore just a few hours later.
It is believed he was aged between 20 and 40 and was possibly Iranian.
– August 19, 2020
In August 2020, the body of Abdulfatah Hamdallah was found on Sangatte beach, just outside Calais.
It followed a search and rescue effort launched after a migrant, suffering from hypothermia, said his makeshift boat had capsized at sea and his companion, who could not swim, was missing and may still be in the water.
The Sudanese man, thought to be in his 20s, drowned.
Believed to be from west Kordofan, Sudan, he is reported to have fled his country in 2014 and spent at least two years in Libya before reaching Europe.
– October 14, 2019
The bodies of two Iraqi Kurds were found on a beach in Le Touquet, along the coast from Calais.
Hussein Mofaq Hussein, 22, and Soran Jamal Jalal, 17, are thought to have drowned after falling into the water during an attempt to cross the English Channel in a small boat.
– August 18, 2019
The body of 47-year-old Iraqi Niknam Massoud was discovered on August 23 in the water of the Thorntonback wind farm, off the coast of Belgium, wearing one flipper and a life-jacket made from a rucksack filled with empty plastic bottles.
He is thought to have left Calais to swim to the UK five days earlier, after having been reportedly denied asylum in Germany after missing a registration deadline.
– August 9, 2019
Mitra Mehrad, a 31-year-old Iranian national described by her family as a “brilliant, intelligent woman who wanted to start a new life”, drowned in the Channel while trying to reach the UK on a dinghy with 19 others.
Rescue teams were sent to assist the dinghy in distress but her body has not been recovered.