As you read, you visualise the dead – hit by cars as they try to dash over the motorway or jump down from trucks; crushed by lorries as they try to climb in or under them; suffocating slowly inside trucks; electrocuted or hit by trains in the Eurotunnel; drowned in the port of Calais or out at sea.
So writes Frances Webber in Deadly Crossings, a new report chronicling the nearly 300 people who have died in the attempt to cross the England-France border since 1999. Published by the Institute for Race Relations and the Permanent People’s Tribunal, the report draws on data collected by French migrant support group Gisti. It finds that there have been at least 296 deaths from attempts to cross the Channel in the past 20 years, although the exact number will never be known.
The authors hope that the report “will give each person included an identity and a history”. Their stories are told on a timeline and map as well as in the report. Included are 58 Chinese people found dead in a truck at Dover in June 2000 and 39 Vietnamese nationals discovered in Essex last year, as well as many individual tragedies.
“These deaths”, Webber says, “are not ‘natural’ nor ‘tragic accidents’ but man-made, created by policies which do not merely close borders but also erect ever more obstacles to safe travel for the most vulnerable. Military-style solutions don’t solve humanitarian problems. They simply create more profit for the smugglers, and more suffering for the migrants”.