Belga

Migrant dies swimming to the UK

An Iraqi national is believed to have died during an attempt to swim to England from the Continent.  The migrant is the first such fatality to be found in Belgian waters.

The body of the 48-year-old was recovered on Friday.  He was wearing diver’s fins and had tied plastic bottles around his body to form a kind of life jacket.

Carl Decaluwé is the governor of West Flanders: “We don’t know exactly what happened.  He probably tried to get from France to the UK on his own steam.  Something must have happened and we believe the body then drifted and ended up at the wind farm off Zeebrugge.”

Mr Decaluwé says this tragic story shows two things: “The man’s clothes indicate he wasn’t familiar with this environment.  The North Sea with its currents is perilously dangerous.  It also showed he was desperate.  Otherwise you don’t do things like this.”

In France, the UK and Belgium a keen eye is being kept on the sea. Carl Decaluwé: “When we see somebody, we intervene and take them back to land. In France there are fewer social checks.  It’s less built up and the distance to the UK is shorter.”

“A couple of months ago a new route opened.  We are trying to close it but we can’t do this completely.  Recently we picked up nine Albanians.  Human traffickers are undaunted and these poor creatures, the migrants, don’t realise which dangers they face.”