The Sudanese migrant who drowned trying to cross the English Channel has been named as Abdulfatah Hamdallah. Hamdallah was using an inflatable dinghy with shovels for oars to cross.
The teenager was also known as Wajdi and had his claim for asylum in France refused recently, and he decided to risk the dangerous journey across the Strait of Dover for a better life in the UK.
His last Facebook post, made on 17th June, was a photograph of himself and a friend with the caption: “We walk on the palm of fate, and do not know what is written.”
Philippe Sabatier, Boulogne-sur-Mer’s deputy public prosecutor, said a travel document being carried by Hamdallah gave his age as 28.
His friend, who survived when their small dinghy capsized, had told rescuers he was 16.
Sabatier told the Independent that the survivor told officials one of the shovels had punctured the boat and caused them to fall into the sea.
The search for the missing teen involved sea rescue services and a Belgian military helicopter.
The increasing tension between France and Britain
The death came as tensions rise over the British government’s approach to migrant boat crossings, and a French MP blamed the tragedy on the UK’s policy of insisting asylum claims be made on its soil.
UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, described the death of the young migrant as a “brutal reminder” of how smugglers exploit the vulnerable. However, Sabatier said no people smugglers appear to have been involved.
Bridget Chapman, of Kent Refugee Action Network, called on the Home Secretary to instead “turn her attention immediately to creating safe and legal routes so that no one else suffers the same fate”.
Pierre-Henri Dumont, a local councillor and also an MP for the Calais region for the centre-right Les Republicans, tweeted: “What we all feared, happened this night. How many more tragedies must there be for the British to find an ounce of humanity. The impossibility of lodging an asylum request in Great Britain without being physically there is leading to these tragedies. British negligence does not exonerate the French government from its own responsibility.”
The tragedy comes as the number of people risking their lives by crossing the Dover Strait, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, hits record highs, with more than 4,300 arrivals so far this year – more than double the total in the whole of 2019.
However, behind this political tug-of-war are men, women and children escaping war, disaster, and poverty. If they do make it to the UK, they find themselves in a country with a government that is becoming increasingly hostile to new arrivals.
- Travellers are Rethinking Flying as Flight Shaming Takes Off - 1st March 2021
- Oxford-Backed Project Connects Partition Survivors to Their Ancestral Homes - 22nd February 2021
- Helping Your Own: A Young Aslyum Seeker Explains the Importance of Volunteering in the COVID Era - 7th September 2020