“I’m going to die”: a migrant remembers his perilous crossing of the English Channel | World news



By Lucy Marks and Natalie Thomas

DOVER, England (Reuters) – Sitting in a small boat with 22 other migrants, lashed by the pouring rain and surging waves, Abdullah al Badri thought he was going to drown in the English Channel.

This 27-year-old Bedouin from Kuwait had traveled Europe for four years, a stateless refugee in search of a new home.

“It was really horrible. It was a way of dying,” al Badri told Reuters as he recalled his crossing to Britain from France. He doesn’t know his exact starting point, but says it was near a forest.

“It was really not easy to get on the boat and I was like ‘what’s going to happen? I’m going to die like the child of Syria’,” he said, referring to Alan Kurdi, three years old. , found drowned on a Turkish beach in 2012.

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Al Badri said the six-meter boat was rocked by waves and rain in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

“Then someone fell off the boat and then we have to get him (out of the water) and everyone is scared.”

The boat got lost and after 10 a.m. al Badri called the UK emergency services, who took them to Dover.

He says it was difficult to leave his family in Kuwait and join a wave of migrants leaving the Middle East and elsewhere L8N2PB6YJ, fleeing the conflicts and hardships of recent years in search of a new life in Europe .

“I am Bedouin. The reason I left my country is that we have no status. We have no freedom and we have no right to choose in our country,” he said. he declares.

Al Badri says he was born without citizenship, unable to access essential services such as health care, open a bank account or claim other rights.

The Kuwaiti government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Authorities in Kuwait and other Gulf states claim that many stateless people are “illegal residents” and include immigrants who have hidden or destroyed their passports to claim nationality and take advantage of financial benefits granted to citizens.

Many people among the nomadic Bedouin tribes failed to acquire citizenship when Kuwait became independent in 1961.

Unable to obtain a passport, al Badri said his family collected 9,000 Kuwaiti dinars ($ 20,000) in 2017 to pay smugglers who facilitated his journey over the next four years, starting with a flight to the Turkey on forged documents.

He then went to Greece and then to Belgium, where he stayed for two years before his asylum application was rejected. He went to Switzerland and then to France, where he began what he hopes will be his last trip to Britain.

Al Badri is awaiting an interview with immigration officials to determine his refugee status. In case of refusal, he thinks he would be expelled.

The British government says it wants to make the country less attractive to asylum seekers. Under the proposed legislation, those who attempt to enter illegally face up to four years in prison.

Al Badri was one of the thousands who have crossed the Channel in small boats this year. He said he didn’t know it was illegal.

In July, the French and British governments announced their intention to step up efforts to intercept ships and stop boats making the perilous voyage.

At least 482 migrants crossed the Channel by boat on Wednesday, a record daily number, the interior ministry said.

Another man who crossed the Channel said he knew it was illegal but felt he had no choice.

He asked Reuters not to identify him for fear of repercussions on his family in Iraq. He said he fled the persecution and suffered repression as a homosexual.

“Three times I have been in jail, just for this reason, I am gay,” he said.

He said a police officer assaulted him and said: “We will tell your family that you are gay and when they know you are gay they will kill you.”

“Because we have a problem in Iraq, in the Middle East with the culture, with our religion, they don’t accept your life,” he said.

The Iraqi government says it is committed to ensuring the rights of all minority groups, but its largely conservative society generally frowns on homosexuality and homosexuals mostly try to hide their sexuality.

The 32-year-old said he had never felt safe in Iraq and therefore decided to leave. After two years in Germany and not having been granted refugee status, he traveled through France and headed for Great Britain.

Now living in Leeds, in the north of England, and awaiting an interview to assess his refugee status, he is improving his language skills and hopes to work as an interpreter.

(Written by Lucy Marks and Giles Elgood, edited by Andrew Heavens)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.


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