Iraqi migrant drowned trying to swim to Britain, officials say

The body of an Iraqi migrant, believed to have died while attempting to swim across the English Channel from France to Britain, has been found off the coast of Belgium.

The 47-year-old man was spotted by maritime police 20 kilometers (12 miles) off the coast of Zeebrugge, northern Belgium on Friday, the region’s governor Carl Decaluwe told CNN.

His body was covered with a fishnet and he was wearing a makeshift lifejacket made with empty plastic bottles. The man also had a slipper on one foot, Decaluwe said.

Authorities used the migrant’s fingerprints to confirm he had previously attempted to seek asylum in Germany, but was refused.

“We found documents from the German authorities with a photograph which allowed us to be almost certain of this man’s identity,” Yves Segaert, spokesperson for the Brugges Prosecutor’s office, told CNN. Segaert confirmed that prosecutors believe the man was attempting to swim across to Britain.

An increasing number of migrants have attempted to make the dangerous journey across the Channel in recent years in an effort to flee war or persecution in their own countries, with many resorting to particularly perilous methods of travel.

Border guards intercepted three dinghies heading towards Dover, on the English side of the Channel, over the weekend, the UK’s Press Association reported. Earlier this month, a woman was believed to have died after falling from a small boat in the waters.

Since January, Britain has returned more than 65 people who arrived in small boats from Europe, according to the Home Office.

On Friday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told migrants considering making the journey that the UK “will send you back.”

“The point I would just make to people thinking of making this journey — one, it is very hazardous, you may think the weather looks great but it’s a very, very dangerous thing to do,” Johnson said in an interview with The Sun newspaper.

“The second thing is, we will send you back,” he added. “The UK should not be regarded as a place where you can automatically come and break the law by seeking to arrive illegally.”

A UK Home Office spokesperson told CNN: “This is a tragic incident and our thoughts are with the individual involved and their family and friends. Anyone seeking to swim across the Channel or to cross this dangerous stretch of water in a small boat is taking a huge risk.

“The Home Secretary is in discussions with the French authorities about this issue and we continue to work closely at all levels with France.”