Asylum seeker thought he was 'going to die' crossing English Channel in small boat

  • Speaking exclusively to ITV News Meridian, Ali tells Joe Coshan what it was like to cross the English Channel in a small boat

An Iranian asylum-seeker has revealed he thought he was going to die crossing the English Channel in a small boat, but admitted he would make the journey again just to find peace.

Known only as 'Ali' to protect his identity, he told us how he made the dangerous crossing to reach the UK last year, after attempts to settle in Greece and Germany failed.

In his first television interview, Ali revealed he was forced to flee his homeland in Iran as he faced persecution at the hands of the Iranian government, and said his life was in danger.

"I left Iran to travel to Greece, because of some religious issues that were caused by the government", Ali said.

"We don't have freedom of speech in Iran, so that made me escape."

Ali left Greece and travelled to Germany, where he spent nine months and then moved on to France, but he's admitted he didn't feel safe.

"I'm looking for somewhere to settle peacefully, and somewhere I can serve the community and society.

During his time in Calais, Ali paid a people smuggling gang €2,500 so he could cross the English Channel illegally in a small boat.

He paid a one off fee - which the group said would pay for unlimited crossing attempts - until he was able to reach the Kent coast.

  • Ali says the criminal smuggling gangs are exploiting migrants for business deals but says they are helping people

Ali said the group were left 'disappointed' when their first attempt failed as their boat ran out of fuel. "We thought we were going to die," he said.

"For seven hours we were in that situation.

"Finally we saw a ship and we all shouted and screamed. After an hour of circling round us, the French Coastguard came and took us back to the coast."

The group of 17 people made a second attempt to cross the Channel. They waited in a cottage in a forest until the smugglers gave them the green light and the water was calm enough.

The group, mostly made up of young men, were forced to dig the dinghy out from underground and inflate it, before carrying it to the coast to start their journey.

Describing what made him want to risk his life again, Ali said: "If I wanted to go back to my country - what would be waiting for me? A cruel government, and their welcome would be bullets.

"As an engineer - an educated guy, I gave myself a chance to save my life."

More than a year on from reaching Kent, Ali is still waiting for his asylum application to be processed by the Home Office.

But he said he feels 'guilty' that he isn't able to work and wants to apologise to taxpayers for not being able to contribute to society.

  • Ali says he 'wanted to apologise to taxpayers' for not being able to work and 'contribute to society' while he waits for his asylum application to be processed

The Home Secretary, Suella Braverman says she will precent modern slavery laws being "abused by people smugglers.

Under the plans, migrants "deliberately entering the UK illegally from a safe country should be swiftly returned to their home country or relocated to Rwanda".

She admitted the government's asylum plan to give asylum seekers who cross the Channel a one-way ticket to Rwanda needed some work though.

Speaking at a Conservative fringe event, the Home Secretary said it was her "dream" to have a Rwanda flight depart before Christmas.

During her speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, she said: "It is not racist for anyone, ethnic minority or otherwise, to want to control our borders."

"I will look to bring forward legislation to make it clear that the only route to the UK is through a safe and legal route," she added.

“It’s right that we extend the hand of friendship to those in genuine need. This country has always done so. It did so for my father in the 1960s as a young man from Kenya. We have now welcomed hundreds of thousands of people fleeing Syria, Hong Kong, Afghanistan, and Ukraine.

“At the same time we should use our newfound control to deliver the kind of immigration that grows our economy, for example that helps projects that have stalled or builds relationships with our friends and allies."