Recent lorry deaths have revealed the desperate measures people are willing to take to escape war and persecution.
Often going for days without food and water and being stuck in a freezing container underneath boxes of potatoes, meat or perhaps syringes, are some of the conditions refugees have endured in their long life-threatening journeys to the UK.
A ‘tweet’ by Ahmed Al Rashid said: “No words can describe how I feel today” after 39 bodies were discovered inside a refrigerated lorry in Essex. Rashid himself travelled from Syria to the UK in 2015, and this latest news brought back memories of his journey being stuck in lorries, tankers and freezers with meat and chicken. Rashid went on to comment on the difficult decisions people make when they are surrounded by death and killing, and why they flee their homes and loved ones.
“Surviving these horrendous situations and being able to thrive afterwards is a triumph,” he said. “My heart goes out to all those who lost their lives on the route. Be kind, be the voice of the voiceless. Be a human being”.
Many other refugees who feared they would die in lorries have been speaking about their experiences.
One such refugee told of how he was in Calais for five months after he was forced to flee Sudan because of his political activities, and how nearly every day he tried to get into a lorry to reach the UK, even though the French police were always catching and beating them.
When he finally succeeded in getting into a lorry he had to hide inside for more than 15 hours without food and water. He said he was so sad to hear about the people who had died, and he realized that could easily have been him – but for all of these people the UK means safety, and most say that if they were in the same position again and had to run for their life they would do the same thing again.
People will do anything if they think it will save their life. Sadly for the people who were found in Essex the hopes of reaching safety did not work.
Mohammed age 22, fled from Iran by smuggling himself inside a lorry which was carrying syringes and medicine but says he was frightened every minute in case the lorry driver or police found him.
Although terrified about trying to get into a lorry he felt as if he had no choice. He was in Calais for a month and ten days and every night tried to get into a lorry but was caught by the French police many times before travelling to the UK.
He travelled in the clothes that he was wearing taking nothing else with him. He felt so weak when he finally arrived in the UK that he collapsed when getting out of the lorry as he had not eaten or drunk anything for a long time.
As long as the government makes it difficult for people to reach the UK safely they will continue to take these risks. as Mohammed and the migrants who died took.
Lawyers and human rights campaigners have called for an overhaul of immigration laws in the wake of the tragedy saying the smugglers are a symptom rather than the cause of Europe’s tough migration policies.
Giulia Tranchina, an immigration solicitor at Wilsons said: “There are reports that the lorry came from Bulgaria, many of my clients have been imprisoned and tortured in Bulgaria, a place the UK tries to remove some asylum seekers to. People are looking for a safer place to go to – they are tortured in the Balkans, beaten up by neo-Nazis in Italy, Greece and Austria, and sometimes turned away when they try to claim asylum in France.
We are not asking ‘What people suffer before they get into a lorry ?’ For many of my clients who get a place on a lorry and reach safety in the UK, it is the smugglers who save their lives. We are talking about the criminality of the smuggler but it is the immigration policies of the European countries which are criminal.
Tranchina said one 16-year-old client who made it to the UK with great difficulty. on a lorry, collapsed when he arrived in Dover. “He had to hide in the lorry in such a dangerous way, what we need are safe legal routes to Europe”.
The UK has the highest death toll for migrants entering the country on lorries, of any country in Europe, even excluding the latest tragedy, according to a database of deaths, collated by the NGO United for International Action Since 2000, the database has recorded 73 deaths of migrants entering the UK on trucks and lorries.
While 58 deaths were recorded when Chinese migrants were found suffocated on a lorry in Dover in 2000, records show there were at least 15 other fatal incidents in the following years involving people from Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, India and Vietnam.
The UK accounted for more than a third of lorry-related deaths across all countries, during that time period, according to the United data. France recorded the second-highest number of deaths with 42 migrants dying in trucks or lorries.
Annette Elder, an immigration solicitor at Elder Rahimi said she was angry about the failure to join the dots. Having just returned from spending three weeks on the Greek island of Lesbos where the situation is worse than it has ever been, unimaginably horrific.
People don’t put their small children in overcrowded boats if they have any choice, they don’t tie plastic water bottles around their waists to swim the Channel, or climb into container lorries of agents they cannot be sure they can trust if they have any other options. “When people’s lives are made unlivable and their children have no future, often due to years of wars that they did not start, if they can they will move”.
“Politicians express regret for the deaths but at the same time act to reduce family reunification rights and fail to act to fulfil even the limited legal obligations that are acceptable”.
“The UK could take the lead in promoting robust burden-sharing and swift effective family reunification policies within the UK and Europe”.