Five dead on migrant boat: ‘We saw people struggling on board’ – BBC.com

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Five dead on migrant boat: ‘We saw people struggling on board’ – BBC.com

  • By Andrew Harding
  • BBC News, northern France

Video caption, BBC’s Andrew Harding sees people boarding a small boat bound for the UK.

From the shore, we could see that the migrants’ inflatable boat was in difficulty. It was crowded, with people climbing up the sides and others standing in the middle in the pre-dawn darkness.

There were a few bright orange life jackets in the water and we could hear people screaming, but we couldn’t make out exactly what they were saying.

The French police stood in the shallows or on the beach. They had struggled to stop the migrants as they charged from the dark sand dunes toward the sea – a long run over perhaps 300 meters (1,000 feet) of wet sand.

As the police, numbering at least fifteen, ran to get closer to the migrants, several young men turned to face them, brandishing long sticks and throwing flares or firecrackers in the direction of the police.

There were shouts and shouts of anger. Smoke hung over the dark beach. The smugglers appeared to form a sort of human barrier around their paying passengers, as they all backed into the water.

Two women with a child, who failed to follow the group, were arrested by police on the shore. One said she was from Iraq and was desperate to join her family in the UK.

Legend, Once at sea, the police made no attempt to arrest them.

Once the migrants boarded the inflatable boat they were dragging across the sand, police made no further attempts to arrest them.

At one point the overloaded boat appeared to be stranded on a sandbar due to the receding tide, but then moved away out to sea.

Several people who had failed to find a place on the boat then returned to shore on foot with their life jackets. Police arrested a man who an officer said may have provided the boat to the migrants.

At that point, the police and remaining migrants all began moving away from the water’s edge, toward a parking lot near the town of Wimereux.

We waited as the light grew stronger and could see that several small rescue boats had been launched from a large French maritime rescue ship off the coast. The lifeboats appeared to circle for a moment around the now distant inflatable boat.

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