Migrants in France said they were shocked by Britain's Rwanda plan
Migrants in France said they were shocked by Britain's Rwanda plan AFP News

Britain's new law allowing the deportation of undocumented asylum seekers to Rwanda is sparking fear among migrants who have come to France in the hope of crossing the Channel to England.

Incredulity and trepidation spread in a makeshift camp at Loon-Plage, a town near Dunkirk on the northern French coast, where migrants were waiting for a chance to cross the water.

Many said they realised that even if they reached their destination, they could quickly find themselves bundled onto a flight to Africa.

"They're really going to send people to Rwanda?" said Sultan, a 20-year-old Afghan who gave only his first name.

"I didn't think it was serious. I thought humanity was important to them," he told AFP, laughing nervously.

As another man approached, Sultan gave him the news: "We can all be sent to Rwanda, wherever we're from."

"What do we have to do now? Where can we go?" his friend asked?

Sultan doesn't know. "Everyone is shocked," he said.

A few metres away, Sagvan Khalid Ibrahim, an Iraqi Kurd, said a life in Rwanda was hardly an improvement on his country of origin.

"I just want to be free, and they want to send me to Rwanda?" said the 29-year-old, adding that he has tried twice, without success, to cross the Channel since arriving at the Loon-Plage camp in December.

"I prefer to die in Europe than go to Rwanda," he said, with a hint of a smile behind his thick ginger beard.

Details of Britain's Rwanda plan circulated quickly at the water supply spot between a cul-de-sac and a muddy trail, where migrants come to fill their bottles and wash.

Ebrahim Hamit Hassou, a 25-year-old Syrian Kurd, digested the news while brushing his teeth.

"If there's a risk to be sent to Rwanda, I don't think I'm going to England," he declared after rinsing out his mouth with ice cold water.

"Rwanda, we don't know if it's a safe country or not."

But, he said, staying in France was no option either.

So if there was "hope" of avoiding Rwanda, he said, "I'll try to go to England."

Other migrants gathering at the water spot said they hoped the British law was meant to deter migrants from crossing the water rather than being applied fully.

But if that hope turns out to be wrong, said Hamid, a 30-year-old Afghan, he has a plan B.

"I'll go to Ireland," he said, to join a friend who already lives in Dublin, as soon as the water is calm enough to risk the crossing.

A record 45,000 people attempted to cross the Channel to Britain in boats in 2022, a number that fell to 30,000 last year.

But since January of this year, their number is already up by 20 percent compared with the same period last year.

Some of the journeys end in tragedy. Early Tuesday, five migrants, including a seven-year-old girl, died near the Wimereux beach in France.

At least 15 people have died trying to cross this year so far, already more than in all of 2023.