Migrants push past outnumbered French police to make perilous Channel crossing

·2-min read

By Pascal Rossignol, Manuel Ausloos and Stephane Mahe

WIMEREUX, France (Reuters) -In the early hours of Thursday on a beach in northern France, a small group of police with torches tries to stand in the way of dozens of migrants heading for the sea carrying a grey dinghy.

It's tense. The police are outnumbered. The migrants - who hope to make it to Britain on the final stretch of their long journeys fleeing war and poverty - are screaming.

During the standoff, some of the migrants shout: "Help us, we want go to UK, please!" Some are standing in front of the police to try to block their way and allow others to carry the boat into the water.

They eventually push past the police, who stand aside.

"Thank you, thank you," says one woman, blowing kisses in the direction of the police. One young man says, on his way to the dinghy: "I have a dream, go UK, I have a dream, I have a wish."

The migrants, including children, some crying, jump onto the dinghy. One child was covered from her feet to her neck in a black garbage bag in an apparent effort to protect her from the water. She wore a bright pink coat and grey woollen hat to keep her warm.

The dinghy then headed out into the Channel - one of the world's busiest, and dangerous, shipping lanes - towards England.

The arrival of migrants on rickety boats has been a growing source of tension between France and Britain, especially after 27 migrants drowned last month.

Britain says France is not doing enough to police its beaches, while France accuses Britain of having lax labour laws that entice illegal immigrants.

On the beach in Wimereux, near Calais, the police - about 10 - seem resigned. "They just want to go to England, that's it," one said of the group of mostly Kurdish migrants.

One migrant gave up and turned around, saying jumping on this overloaded dinghy was too risky.

A while later, another dinghy, with about 40 people on board, set out from the same beach.

(Reporting by Stephane Mahe, Manuel Ausloos, Pascal Rossignol; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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