A train struck and killed a migrant from Eritrea and at least two bodies were recovered from the sea and on a beach in northern France during what has been a particularly deadly week for migrants attempting treacherous crossings to Britain.
Many hundreds of people, setting off in a flotilla of boats, quickly ran into trouble in the waters between northern France and Britain. The waterway with changeable weather, cold seas and heavy maritime traffic is dangerous for the inflatables and other small boats that men, women and children squeeze into for attempted crossings. From Monday night to Wednesday night, more than 1,000 people were picked up off the coast during dozens of rescue operations by French maritime vessels backed up by helicopters.
One person taken unconscious from the sea on Wednesday was later declared dead on shore, French maritime authorities said. Another person was declared missing, having fallen off a boat from which other people were rescued in the waters off the coastal town of Calais. Another body was recovered on a beach west of Calais on Thursday, along with a boat filled with water and two survivors who were hospitalized with hypothermia, maritime authorities said.
The train that killed the migrant from Eritrea on Thursday night was traveling on a rail line in Calais that migrants often use as a footpath, authorities said.
Another Eritrean was critically injured and two others were slightly injured. They were among a group of migrants who were walking along the tracks in heavy rain and after dark, making it hard for the train driver to see them and for them to see the train, Franck Dhersin, a regional vice president for transportation, told French broadcaster BFM-TV.
Dhersin, who is also a village mayor near the coastal town of Dunkirk, said dozens of migrants are arriving daily in the area. He appealed for help, saying: “We feel abandoned by the government.”
“There is a new influx of migrants,” he said. “There are more and more deaths. There are more and more clashes. There are also a lot of fights between traffickers who regularly fire at each other’s legs with Kalashnikov rifles.”