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More migrants attempt deadly English Channel crossing

See the international stories WORLD is monitoring this week

A migrant makeshift camp in Calais, France, on Saturday Associated Press/Photo by Rafael Yaghobzadeh

More migrants attempt deadly English Channel crossing

Ari, an Iraqi physics teacher who left home because he couldn’t find work, is one of several migrants who sought shelter at makeshift camps near the French coastal cities of Calais and Dunkirk. They were waiting for the right weather and a security lapse to make the dangerous English Channel crossing into the United Kingdom.

At least 27 migrants died along the same route last week in the deadliest recorded disaster in the English Channel since 2014. That did not dissuade migrants like Ari, who pay smugglers about $3,300 to secure a seat on boats for the crossing. The temperatures are nearing freezing as winter sets in, making the trip even more challenging.

“Everyone is scared, but everyone here—they die (a little) every day,” Ari said.

More than 23,000 people have attempted the crossing this year, up from 8,500 in 2020 and 300 in 2018. Many come from Iraq and other Middle Eastern and African countries such as Sudan and Niger. Stories of successful journeys likely encouraged more migrants to attempt the trip. The recent border crisis between Belarus and Poland has also fueled increased arrivals to France. Migrants like Ari first arrived in Belarus and took a train to Poland before crossing Germany to get to the coast.

Britain and France have traded blame over border security and responsibility for the migrants. European interior ministers in meetings this week agreed that the European border agency would deploy a plane to patrol the Channel. French police this week once again broke up the camps and took the squatters to several processing centers across the country. But some of the migrants still have their sights set on the United Kingdom and plan to try again.

Chinese President Xi Jinping on a billboard in the Xinjiang Region

Chinese President Xi Jinping on a billboard in the Xinjiang Region Associated Press/Photo by Ng Han Guan, file

World radar

CHINA: A set of leaked documents, including top-secret files, show for the first time that the crackdown on Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in the Xinjiang region involved the highest levels of Chinese Communist Party leadership. The documents leaked to German academic Adrian Zenz date from April 2014 to May 2018 and include several speeches by Chinese President Xi Jinping. In one, he said “population proportion and population security are important foundations for long-term peace and stability.” Xinjiang’s party secretary, Chen Quanguo, in another document called for the region’s reeducation centers to be “unswervingly operated for a long time.” Zenz has turned over the full Xinjiang Papers to the Uyghur Tribunal.

AFGHANISTAN: Taliban insurgents have executed more than 100 former police and intelligence officers in four provinces since taking control in August, according to a Human Rights Watch report. Witnesses said the fighters used government records and targeted those who surrendered in Ghazni, Helmand, Kandahar, and Kunduz provinces despite promises of amnesty. The fighters are also targeting people suspected of supporting the Islamic State group in eastern Nangarhar province, according to the report.

RUSSIA: President Vladimir Putin warned NATO countries he would forcefully respond to any deployment of soldiers to Ukraine, and threatened to fire missiles toward Europe. Russia’s move to station military machinery and nearly 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s southeast border spurred the rising tension. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and supports a separatist insurgency that controls territory in eastern Ukraine. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the West is ready to respond with “a range of high-impact economic measures” if Russia decides to invade Ukraine.

PAKISTAN: A mob this week burned down a police station and four police posts in the northwestern city of Peshawar after officers refused to turn over a man accused of desecrating the Quran. Authorities said they relocated the man, who is mentally unstable, to another district. Blasphemy carries the death penalty in Muslim-majority Pakistan, but angry mobs often try to lynch those accused before trial.

Africa brief

Since we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Nigeria, I spent a few hours of my afternoon off at a bi-monthly advocacy meeting focused on the country’s security and economic issues. One member from northwestern Katsina state shared how so-called bandits have taken total control of the majority of villages in one area. He said they have set up tax collectors and village leaders, forcing community members to pay them to harvest their end-of-year crops such as sweet potatoes and peppers. His account was a stark reminder that many cases of insurgent and criminal attacks in afflicted parts of the country often go unreported. You can read my report from last week highlighting how the unrest has continued this year.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD’s Africa reporter and deputy global desk chief. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University–Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria.



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