‘Horror movie’, shocking like none at sea in 21 years: Carl McEwengen, the fisherman who gave a warning Wednesday about the English Channel’s worst immigration drama, is still haunted by images of the floating corpses of outcasts.
“Seeing so many dead people like these next to us, it really is a horror movie,” he tells some journalists that the fisherman, who had just disembarked, in the middle of the night from Thursday to Friday, from the fishing vessel he was working on at the second, in the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer (North) .
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So shocked, his voice coarse with emotion, this bearded man in a blue suit now only aspires to one thing, to “hug his children” in his arms.
The drowning, which occurred on Wednesday, killed 27 people, 17 men, seven women and three young men, according to French justice.
On Wednesday, it was he who saw the first body on the surface of the water, from the bridge of the boat, Saint-Jacques II. He says he then saw “about fifteen,” “dead people, children.”
“Those who didn’t have a life jacket, we couldn’t see them,” explains the fisherman, except for one “wearing black,” and a “plaid shirt.” This, “I saw him because he passed two meters from the boat, and it wasn’t even a meter,” he says, about to cry.
Immediately, the fishermen warn Cross Gris-Nez – the regional center that monitors the canal and organizes rescues of migrants in difficulty on a daily basis – and presents their position.
“The Coast Guard was not far, two miles from us. They came right away.”
Haunted by images seen at sea, Carl McEwengen wrote: “If we had arrived 5 minutes earlier, we might have saved them. We can’t sleep. Once you close your eyes, you see the body again.”
“We were even afraid to pull out the nets for fear of having one in.”
“This is the first time this has happened to me, it’s a strange feeling,” explains this seasoned fisherman, who has been in his profession for 21 years.
However, migrants trying to reach England on flimsy boats have been a part of his daily life for months. And especially since this summer, which saw an increase in the number of crossings: “Every day, every half an hour, there are some.”
As of November 20, 31,500 migrants have left French coasts for Great Britain since the beginning of the year.
“Cross told us that as long as they didn’t call for help and the engine was still running, we wouldn’t be able to take them on board. We don’t take them on board, we listen to Cross,” he explains.
This drama, “I think it’s the first but it won’t be the last.” If the authorities do nothing, there will be every day, especially at this time, with the onset of bad weather.
“In my opinion, it wouldn’t take long for them to die” in a sea at this temperature, 10-12 degrees.
In previous years, attempts to cross declined with the onset of the bad season, but this year it has continued at a very strong pace, with new records being set such as November 11, when 1,185 migrants managed to rally the English coasts.
Karl McEwengen says he doesn’t feel angry, he feels helpless. “Who do you want me to be angry with?” We can’t do anything. Or open the tunnel ‘under the canal, through which many exiles passed before it was closed.
Despite the shock, he will return to the sea in the coming days. “It is our job, we have to get back on the ship. You have to feed your family well.”
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