Thousands of migrants on north coast of France at high-risk from coronavirus, warns charity

Many are attempting to cross Channel despite danger to health

Michael Drummond
Tuesday 17 March 2020 18:19 GMT
Charity Care4Calais says thousands of migrants lliving on the French coastline while they wait to cross to the UK are at high risk
Charity Care4Calais says thousands of migrants lliving on the French coastline while they wait to cross to the UK are at high risk (PA)

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Thousands of migrants living in desperate conditions on the French coastline while they wait to cross to the UK are at high risk from coronavirus, a charity has said.

Up to 1,000 refugees are living in Calais alone, with many seeking to try the dangerous crossing despite repeated safety warnings.

Border Force has been dealing with “a number of ongoing small boat incidents” off the coast of Kent on Tuesday, the Home Office said.

A number of suspected migrants were taken ashore in 6C temperatures at the Port of Dover and met by officials in yellow vests.

Seeker, the Border Force cutter ship, has also been active off the UK coast, the PA news agency understands.

The continued crossings - usually in unsafe inflatable dinghies - come despite the treacherous waters of the English Channel and the escalating Covid-19 outbreak.

Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais, said there are no known cases of Covid-19 at the makeshift camps on the northern coast of France, but it is only a matter of time.

She told PA: “They can't have showers. They can't wash their hands. They can't self-isolate. So all the things we are being told to do, they can't do.

“They are often sleep-deprived so that puts your health at a low ebb already.”

Fears over Covid-19 have led to a sharp drop in volunteers for the charity, with just three on shift on Tuesday, compared with usual levels of up to 30.

Between 700 and 1,000 migrants are living across three sites in Calais where the charity helps, with 3,000 believed to be living across the whole of the northern French coastline.

A lockdown in France could mean the warehouse Care4Calais uses to store food and aid supplies is shut down.

The charity is in urgent meetings with lawyers to try to find a resolution.

Asked about the risk of coronavirus in migrant camps, Ms Moseley said: “We are not aware of any cases currently but it can't be much longer, can it?

“They have been through so much they are scared of everything and now this is another thing.

“They do not understand why the world doesn't care about them.”

She called for people to donate money so the charity can continue to source vital aid supplies like hand sanitiser, many of which will cost more as they will increasingly need to be bought from supermarkets rather than wholesalers.

More information can be found and donations can be made on Care4Calais' website.

The latest migrant activity comes after 16 men were intercepted by French authorities five nautical miles off Dunkirk on Monday.

The men, one of whom had severe hypothermia, were taken to Calais.

Press Association

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