The Crossing

Sameer Al-Doumy is a Syrian photographer born in 1998, in the city of Douma near the Syrian capital Damascus. Sameer believes in “the importance of showing the truth to the whole world, amplifying the voice of the vulnerable people, documenting the injustice and the human rights violations, spreading the news and sharing the reality.”

Below, he gives a testimony of his time photographing migrants crossing the English Channel to reach the UK.

October 2022

Water up to their waist, they try to pull themselves onto the bumpy boat on October 12, 2022.

A smuggler assists them, who will soon abandon them to their fate. Dozens of migrants left the beach of Gravelines (North of France) on Wednesday to attempt the clandestine crossing to England.

The sun is barely up, and the air is cool, five degrees, but the water is drawn by the nearby nuclear power plant.

The first boat leaves, the hum of its engine fades into the mist, before the eyes of a local resident stunned by this incongruous morning ballet, orchestrated by smugglers.

There are six of them this morning assisting the migrants on the beach along the old fishing village. Their job: to wait for the boats, one after the other, to put them in the water, to take the migrants on board, to check the engine.

Price of the service: “1.000… 900… 800 euros” per person, replies one of them, in hesitant French. “It depends on the negotiations.”

“Five or six” boats should leave this morning, he continues, each with “40 or 45” people on board. The accounts are quickly done: at least 200 migrants and 200,000 euros of turnover.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 33,500 people have already made the perilous crossing of the English Channel, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, where more than 400 commercial ships pass each day.

Despite the arrival of autumn and increasingly difficult weather conditions, the number of crossings is not decreasing in this month of October.

Forty new candidates suddenly appeared on the beach at Gravelines. Men, mostly Iraqi Kurds, lift a heavy black inflatable boat. A candidate for departure walks with the help of a crutch. Another carries a young woman on his back. A third carries a child.

They pause in front of the clear sea, the time to catch their breath and prepare the gas cans. Then they get into the water and push the boat, as far as possible, helped by the smugglers.

Each one takes place on board, equipped with a red life jacket. Hood or cap for almost all. One of the smugglers starts the engine in a plume of white smoke. It is time for him to jump into the water to reach the beach by swimming.

A few minutes later, the same thing happened around a third boat. But this time, the engine does not work. One of the smugglers who remained on the beach had to go back on board for repairs.

No more for today. In the distance, half a dozen policemen observed the scene. They did not go to meet the smugglers, who went back on their way, walking calmly.

On the beach at low tide, only an old pump and wet and dirty clothes remain.

Sorty by Clément Zamp and Sameer Al-Doumy for AFP News Agency

Images by Sameer Al-Doumy

#France #Migration #PasdeCalais #Britain #AFP


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