Asylum seeker rescued from small boat says people smugglers made him 'scared for his life'

  • ITV News Meridian's Megan Samrai's report features someone who was rescued from the water the night four others drowned

An asylum seeker rescued from the sea while he was travelling in a small boat said he was "afraid and scared for his life" by people smugglers.

Speaking to ITV Meridian, Hamza, whose name has been changed to protect his identity after he fled persecution from the Taliban in Afghanistan, was rescued alongside 38 others when their rubber dinghy capsized in December 2022.

On Monday, the pilot of that boat, Ibrahima Bah, was found guilty of manslaughter of four passengers who drowned.

Bah, from Senegal and over 18, was charged with four counts of manslaughter and one count of piloting to facilitate illegal entry into the UK from France on 14 December 2022.

However Hamza believes Bah’s actions saved his life.

He said "Everyone was scared. Since the boat was too small there wasn’t enough space for everybody"

"When they turned on the engine again, the boat was driving fast and I believe the guy that you just named [Bah] saved many people’s lives. If he wasn’t there, there would be the possibility that more people would’ve drowned and died"

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The multi-agency search and rescue operation that was launched off the Kent coast, involved the Royal Navy, French Navy, Coastguard, RNLI lifeboats, ambulance service and police after the boat got into difficulty.

Bah previously told the court how he was trying to come to the UK to claim asylum, when people smugglers offered free travel for him and a close friend if he piloted the boat.

But when he reached the shore and saw the state of the dinghy, he says he changed his mind.

Bah claims the traffickers then threatened to kill him if he didn’t.

Hamza, who worked for the military back home, said he felt intimidated by the gang.

"The smugglers were wearing masks and it was impossible for us to see them.

"They were equipped with so many weapons and I was really afraid and scared for my life, because they were really frightening people."

A jury at Canterbury Crown Court found Bah guilty of facilitating illegal entry to UK and guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence.

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