Harrowing tales from migrants attempting to cross the English Channel

Migrants in northern France are repeatedly risking their lives to cross the English Channel.

One Iraqi couple, Azis and Maryam, told the BBC that the family had at least 20 failed attempts. Despite finally arriving in the UK, they could be sent back to France under the Dublin Regulation.

The family arrived in Dunkirk, France, in October of last year with their five-year-old daughter, Chia.

Originally, they planned to travel to British shores in an inflatable boat. The smugglers assured them that the journey would be safe and that they would be accompanied until they reached British waters.

“When you go to English water they then call the police, the police come to help take you to England. Every smuggler says like this,” Azis said.

But they changed their minds about the boat trip after hearing the harrowing experiences of other migrant families.

One Iranian couple with two children nearly drowned when their boat capsized 15 minutes after they set off on their journey. “This water was so cold, so much cold. My feet were going cold, it made me want to die,” one of the children said.

Another couple, Solomon and Siree, were stranded for hours at sea when the engine failed. The boat filled with corrosive fuel. “Our skin was burning, just so painful,” Solomon said. Hours later, they were rescued and brought back to France.

Horrified by their friends’ stories, Aziz decided to try to travel to the UK by lorry. His mother used her house as security for a GBP 10,000 loan which they used to pay  the smugglers’ partners in Iraq.

They faced many problems during their several failed migration attempts. Sometimes the lorries would travel towards Spain or Romania rather than the UK. Other times, sniffer dogs would find them. Once they were even put in a refrigerated lorry, but the temperature was unbearable.

Finally, on 16 February 2019, they reached the UK via the Eurotunnel, hidden in a Romanian lorry. Once the driver had let them out, the family was picked up by relatives and taken to a police station to claim asylum. Under the Dublin Regulation, however, the family could be sent back to France.

TMP – 27/02/2018

Photo: GLF Media/Shutterstock

Aerial photo Dover harbor arriving ferry from English Channel is busiest seaway in world and connects Great Britain and mainland Europe sailing mainly to French ports such as Calais and Dunkirk