The boy who could see England
June 16, 2015 4:49 AM   Subscribe

The wetsuitman. Last winter two bodies were found in Norway and the Netherlands. They were wearing identical wetsuits. The police in three countries were involved in the case, but never managed to identify them. This is the story of who they were.
posted by elgilito (31 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
 
A very sad story. If only he had stayed in the countries he was safe--Jordan, Turkey, Italy, France--and not sought to come to England, he would still be alive today.
posted by Thing at 5:39 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Did you miss the fact that he had family in the UK?

If there were legal, humane ways for these people to migrate then these senseless deaths would be almost unheard of. Europe is not dealing with the biggest migration of people since WW2 and that is not the fault of the people who are migrating. This is an epic humanitarian disaster that is being used as a rhetorical bargaining chip by politicians. Every one of the deaths we hear of in the press represents a tragic story of hope denied.
posted by asok at 6:49 AM on June 16, 2015 [24 favorites]


We fucked up Africa and the Middle East for centuries.

Why stop now?
posted by Devonian at 7:02 AM on June 16, 2015


ooof.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:05 AM on June 16, 2015


.

Good lord. Imagine being so desperate for a better life that you're willing to risk swimming 34 kilometres across open sea.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:47 AM on June 16, 2015


What do you hope for, when a son, a brother, a nephew goes missing for eight months and the only alternative to a constant nagging uncertainty are the depths of grief?

.
posted by Halo in reverse at 8:08 AM on June 16, 2015


That stretch of the English Channel, the Dover Strait, holds the busiest shipping lanes in the world. As many as 600 large ships pass through it every 24 hours. It is not somewhere to go swimming at night.

Human flotsam. A tragedy.
posted by Hogshead at 8:14 AM on June 16, 2015


It doesn't make any sense to put your life at terrible risk just in order to move from France to England. There is nothing so terribly wrong with living in France. Even if for some reason you hate France, if you claim asylum there you have every chance of being able to travel to England legally within a few years.
posted by Segundus at 8:19 AM on June 16, 2015


I think France is not dealing well with it's refugee issues and asylum wasn't really an option. (not that i have much room to talk as I am in the US) I think that's really why he was trying to get England.

Also, years of trauma probably made him not make the best decisions.

Incredibly sad. I wonder if he would even have known asylum was an option. The refugee center was closed in Calais so he was just in an illegal camp, probably little to no aid workers with information like that.
posted by sio42 at 8:39 AM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


So sad.

.
posted by suelac at 8:49 AM on June 16, 2015


This is very sad.

But that said, trying to swim across the Channel is a very poor decision.

One can only hope that his story is also heard by those who might make similarly poor decisions. Don't try to swim across the Channel, kids! At least take a boat. Even then it's very dangerous and you might die.
posted by sour cream at 8:57 AM on June 16, 2015


That was a hard but beautiful read.

. and . for the wetsuitmen.
posted by evoque at 9:25 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


There is nothing so terribly wrong with living in France

It is not particularly easy to be a person of colour in France these days, especially an Arab/Muslim/could be perceived by others as.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:37 AM on June 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


FFFM: It is not particularly easy to be a person of colour in France these days, especially an Arab/Muslim/could be perceived by others as.

And where is it particularly easy to be a person of colour these days?
posted by sour cream at 10:08 AM on June 16, 2015


It doesn't make any sense to put your life at terrible risk just in order to move from France to England. There is nothing so terribly wrong with living in France. Even if for some reason you hate France, if you claim asylum there you have every chance of being able to travel to England legally within a few years.

He was trying to avoid this madness. Such a waste of human potential, it's so frustrating.
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:27 AM on June 16, 2015


That was an eye-opening read, thank you. We should be ashamed of how we treat refugees in Europe, given how many of them are a direct result of our actions in the rest of the world.
posted by Acey at 10:30 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


It doesn't make any sense to put your life at terrible risk just in order to move from France to England. There is nothing so terribly wrong with living in France. Even if for some reason you hate France, if you claim asylum there you have every chance of being able to travel to England legally within a few years.

I don't believe these refugees have any official IDs, or are even able to travel farther from the Calais Refugee Camps. I googled around and found this Vice article on the living conditions, and it sounds like they're on their last dregs of money, assistance and basic amenities. Living in France means staying in a stinking, disease-infested, overcrowded temporary shelter without ID, money or access to basic necessities, so why the hell not wouldn't you try to get to England?

I found some statistics from Human Rights Watch stating: France faces a crisis of inadequate accommodation for asylum seekers. Currently only a third of those who seek asylum across France are provided with accommodation in reception centers for asylum seekers. As of December 2013, 15,000 asylum seekers were on a waiting list for a place in a reception center and fewer than a third of asylum seekers entitled to accommodation were housed in such centers. A bill before parliament aims to speed up asylum procedures and increase available accommodation in reception centers for asylum seekers across the country. (emphasis mine)

It sounds like staying in France is a long and shitty dice roll for asylum, with England being the Zion that many envision. RIP.
posted by kurosawa's pal at 11:21 AM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


"In the middle ages, they burnt witches right outside this spot, but things are more relaxed here now."
posted by doctornemo at 12:57 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


A very sad story, damning the way Europe handles refugees.
posted by doctornemo at 1:50 PM on June 16, 2015


..
posted by allthinky at 2:18 PM on June 16, 2015


And where is it particularly easy to be a person of colour these days?

That's a fair point. My understanding is that the ferocity of discrimination against people who are or appear to be Muslim/Arab-descended in France has reached a nasty fever pitch beyond most other allegedly leftist places where the majority is white/Christian.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:34 PM on June 16, 2015


.

That is an incredibly sad story. And it's heartrending to think that it is just one and must stand in for so many that will remain forever untold.
posted by bardophile at 5:14 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's a long history of this -- over a decade ago, for a number of years, there were numerous attempts to sneak into the UK using the Eurotunnel (Chunnel). This was aggravated by mixed jurisdiction of the rail facilities and a refugee camp right near the French tunnel entrance. Even this year a man was electrocuted trying to ride a train through the tunnel (he didn't get near it).

The basic issue seems to be that France has a much more limited asylum policy and once it is denied, swift deportation, while the UK's asylum laws, although they are probably not as lax as they were in the 1990s (for instance, in the current crisis Britain has accepted about 2/3 as many refugees as France or Germany), are deemed more lenient and deportation is less common or quick. I'm not really sure it has much to do with French discrimination becoming greater (a very debatable proposition). There may be other considerations such as the ease of finding work or starting a business as a refugee, and access to other countries once your status is determined. It may also be as simple as being from a region where English is a more common second language.

The bottom line is that for at least some migrants the UK is the holy grail they seek. All intermediate points are simply a place to cross through.
posted by dhartung at 5:46 PM on June 16, 2015


Why the United Kingdom, why England? In Mouaz's case he had relatives here but is that the case for all refugees? The political will to accept asylum seekers in this country at the moment is poor. Are the continental countries of Europe even worse?

Since I live in England I'm probably biased against it. From an outsiders point of view what is the draw?

On preview, is dhartung right?
posted by antiwiggle at 5:49 PM on June 16, 2015


I can only speak for myself, but many years ago I picked England because of the language and the culture.

Like most of the world, I grew up immersed in English language cultural exports, mostly American, but with some British in the mix. I had taken English classes at school, and TV, movies and the radio kept me up to date with American and British culture.

I went from the Croatian mediterranean coast to the north of Poland by road, did not need to show my ID once. I took a boat from Poland to Sweden, had to deal with some sketchy military authorities on the Polish side, no one asked me question on the Swedish side. Then a budget flight from Sweden to a small airport in England. There was a handwritten sign pointing to 'Customs and Immigration'. Like most people on my flight I ignored the sign and just walked out onto English soil.

To be clear, I was not a refugee, just an economic migrant.

I arrived in England with 50 pounds in my pocket and a phone number for a friend of a friend of my sister's boyfriend. In two weeks I had a job, in less than a year I had paid all my debts back home and was sending money to my mother every week. I can not think of any other European country were I could have made it like this.

Now I know that a big part of what made it easy for me is that if I don't get sun tanned and I keep my mouth shut, I can pass for a white European. Some of my darker skinned Mexican friends had a harder time making it to England, and one got detained and deported.

I am so happy that the journalists decided to get to the bottom of this. In England I never carried an ID. Using your real address puts all your roommates at risk of deportation if you ever get caught doing something stupid, so I did everything under a fake address. I always worried that if I got badly injured or killed my family would never know, and no one would care enough to try to find them.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 1:26 AM on June 17, 2015 [14 favorites]


I managed to hold it together reading this article until I got to the part that said Mouaz was trying to get here, to Bradford. It's not the first time I've read and/or heard firsthand a story like this about people who are going to such incredible, dangerous lengths to get to this fairly unremarkable little city.

Through the absolutely crushing sadness at the fate of so many people who are trying to make it here, it makes me so proud that we're seen worldwide as a place of safety and sanctuary for people who are fleeing from some awful, awful places and events. If I was in their shoes, I'd much rather stay in my own country and live my life in peace - but when events go like they've gone in Syria and other places, I'm really glad we're here to take in people and give them another chance to live out their life peacefully.

It's a really great, diverse, multicultural little city with a nice, peaceful atmosphere most of the time and when I hear people complain (like I do!) about minor local problems like the bad traffic or petty crime, thinking about the drastic measures people are taking, risking their lives to make it here, really makes me stop and think deeply.
posted by winterhill at 1:55 AM on June 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


antiwiggle: "Why the United Kingdom, why England? In Mouaz's case he had relatives here but is that the case for all refugees? The political will to accept asylum seekers in this country at the moment is poor. Are the continental countries of Europe even worse?"
So, on Thursday there's a general election in Denmark. The guy who looks like he's going to be the new PM is actively campaigning for making Denmark less attractive to refugees.
posted by brokkr at 2:41 AM on June 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


On preview, is dhartung right?

I am not sure where he is getting his information from, but the Refugee Council have a good publication on this entitled Chance or Choice - Understanding why Asylum Seekers come to the UK.
None had any detailed knowledge about the asylum system, welfare support or work. Some had specifically wanted to go to other countries but through chance or circumstance found themselves in the UK.
This evidence, particularly when seen in the context of other research exploring patterns of asylum flows across Europe and the decision making of asylum seekers, significantly undermines the commonly-held assumptions that the UK is perceived by asylum seekers as a ‘soft touch’.
Generally people do not know where they are being transported to when they pay the trafficers, so they can end up anywhere. The majority of people are trafficed. If they have family somewhere they will try to get there. Where there are no family ties, having a common language and perceived economic prosperity are motivators for economic migrants and anyone else who wants a better life. People who are fleeing war zones, political instability, environmental disaster, persecution, oppression, human rights abuses, torture or other trauma are generally not motivated by financial considerations. One of the most often heard reasons is for education of children.

The UK is not the European destination of choice for asylum seekers, Germany receives one quarter of asylum claims in the EU, the UK is fourth on the list. The EU is not the place where most migrants are moving to. Developing countries host more than 80% of the world's refugees.
posted by asok at 4:52 AM on June 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


That migrants see the UK as a 'safe and politically stable country' should be a cause for pride, rather than subjecting people to further trauma when they arrive we could be dealing with them in a humane manner.

As the failure of 'Fortress Europe' shows, people will attempt to move about the planet. How we deal with them is a reflection of our values.
posted by asok at 5:22 AM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thank you for the answers, it's something to think about. From the Refugee Council study asok linked to above:
For those who arrive, the most important feature of
their life in the UK is the fact that they are now safe. All
of those who participated in the research emphasised
the importance of living in a country where they no
longer have to worry about their physical safety and
security.
Yes, this should be a source of pride.
posted by antiwiggle at 2:27 PM on June 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


..
70 years ago, the civilized world was ashamed of its ignorance and indifference concerning European Jews. What on earth can be done so we can see that we are repeating history?
posted by mumimor at 7:58 AM on June 18, 2015


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