MISE & Agrave; DAY
“A horror film”, a shock such as he had never experienced in 21 years at sea: Karl Maquinghen, the fisherman who gave the alert on Wednesday on the worst migratory drama that occurred in the English Channel remains haunted by the images of the floating bodies of the castaways.
“Seeing so many dead like that next to us is really a horror film”, confides to a few journalists the fisherman, just disembarked, in the middle of the night from Thursday to Friday, from the trawler on which he works as second, at the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer (north).
Very shocked, the voice who is hoarse with emotion, this bearded man in a blue jumpsuit now only aspires to one thing, “to hug his children” in his arms.
The sinking on Wednesday claimed the lives of 27 people, 17 men, seven women and three young people, according to French justice.
On Wednesday, it was he who saw the first body on the surface of water, from the boat's gangway, the Saint-Jacques II. He says he then saw “about fifteen”, “dead people, children”.
“Those who did not have a life jacket, we could not see them”, explains the fisherman, except for one “dressed in black”, with “a plaid shirt”. This one, “I saw him because he passed two meters from the boat, not even a meter,” he reports, on the verge of tears.
Immediately, the fishermen warn the Cross Gris-Nez – the regional center which monitors the Channel and orchestrates the rescues of migrants in difficulty on a daily basis – and give their position.
“The coast guard was not far away, at 2 miles from us. They came straight away ”.
“If we had arrived 5 minutes before, we might have been able to save them,” writes Karl Maquinghen, haunted by the images seen at sea. “We can't sleep. As soon as you close your eyes, you see the body again. ”
“ We were even afraid of hauling up the nets, for fear that there would be one inside ”.
“ This is the first time that this has happened to me, it feels weird, ”explains this experienced fisherman who has been practicing his profession for 21 years.
However, the migrants who try to reach England on frail boats have been part of his daily life for months. And especially since this summer, which has seen a surge in crossings: “every day, every half hour, it happens.”
As of November 20, 31,500 migrants had left the French coasts for the Great Britain since the start of the year.
“The Cross told us that as long as they didn't call for assistance and the engine was still running, they couldn't be loaded. We don't take them on board, we listen to the Cross, ”he explains.
This drama, “I think it's the first but it won't be the last time.” If the authorities “don't do something, there will be it every day, especially at this time”, with the onset of bad weather.
“In my opinion, we should not long so that they die ”in a sea at this temperature, at 10-12 degrees.
In previous years, attempts at crossings had diminished with the onset of the bad season but, this year, they continued at a very sustained pace, with even new records like on November 11, when 1,185 migrants managed to reach the English coast.
Karl Maquinghen says he does not feel anger, rather a feeling helplessness. “Who do you want me to be mad at?” We can not do anything. Or open the tunnel ”under the Channel, through which many exiles passed before it was locked.
Despite the trauma, it will return to sea in the coming days. “It's our job, we have to go back on board. You have to feed your family well ”.