Sent for a report in 2015 in the “jungle” of Calais (Pas-de-Calais), Julien Goudichaud was then as if captured by his subject. During the seven years that followed, he continued to meet migrants, he saw them pile into inflatable boats and leave the coast in the hope of reaching England. He produced a book, Les Plages de l’abordement, co-written with Nicolas Torrent (Les Arènes, 336 pages, 20 euros) and a documentary, presented this evening as part of the magazine “Envoyé Spécial”.

Going from 336 pages to thirty-seven minutes couldn’t have been easy. The film begins on July 18, on the beach of Boulogne-sur-Mer (Pas-de-Calais), with images that have made the rounds on social networks and the media. They show migrants grouped together, water up to their waists. When a black inflatable boat approaches, they try to get in, some are pushed back. In the commentary, Julien Goudichaud deciphers. The police officers nearby are instructed not to arrest them in the water to avoid drowning; those rejected will leave by the next “taxi boat”.

On the beach, this is the first time that a clandestine “boarding” has taken place in full view of everyone. Opposite the sailing school, where the instructors surrounded by children are stunned, just like the tourists. For what ? Why are they risking their lives? Why aren’t we doing anything to stop this trafficking? Julien Goudichaud does not have time to recall the figures: for the day of August 12 alone (the day when six Afghans died at sea), 509 migrants crossed in ten boats, to speak only of those detected by the British authorities ; in 2022, 45,111 people attempted the crossing, and 2023 “follows this trend” with 16,679 attempts as of August 12.

“A baby on board”

Thanks to the links forged with migrants and smugglers, the journalist can, on the other hand, detail the organization of the sector, the role of each person, the prices. When, on the beach, surrounded by police, a migrant carrying a baby refuses to leave because her two other children were able to board, he specifies: “A few hours later, she will try again, with success. » He is also interested in other modes of passage, by kayak or truck – the migrants getting into the back without discretion, to the point that one wonders how the driver does not realize it. “They are very well organized,” notes one onlooker.

“To get to the end of [his] testimony,” the journalist got the smugglers to let him, once, on board with his camera. If this way of presenting itself can be disturbing, it allows the viewer to have a glimpse of what the migrants experience, 52 men and a woman with her child in a Zodiac which is taking on water. When they call the English rescuers, they will say: “We have a baby on board. »

A few months later, some will go the other way. There alone, the report surprises. The answer lies in post-Brexit Britain. The journalist finds there a migrant he met two years before, rather happy, settled with his friend, a well-paid job, under the table, but still waiting for his residence permit. However, a rumor is circulating: migrants who do not get this pass would be sent back to Rwanda… Back in France, a young Afghan confirms: “Arriving in Calais, I felt at home. »