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This family’s terrifying journey across the Channel wasn’t their first choice – it was their last hope | UK News

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In a hostel in northern France, the atmosphere was tense.

A father and his family were waiting for a call, a sign sea conditions were right and it is finally time to go.

After fleeing from Kurdistan, they’ve paid around €8000 (£6,850) to cross the Channel on a dinghy provided by smugglers who value money over life.

“We don’t have any other option except this dinghy. The surveillance for the trucks [crossing the Channel] is very strong and that is why we have to take this journey. We will either die or succeed,” Mohammed said ahead of the journey.

The family now await to hear their fate in the UK
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The family now await to hear their fate in the UK

To tell their story safely, all the family’s names have been changed.

The UK wasn’t their destination of choice; for years Germany was their home but then, after a failed asylum bid and threatened with deportation last month, they ran.

If they stayed, Mohammed says they would have been sent back home where he fears he could be killed.

But after years of making friends and plans, overnight his family’s lives changed.

His teenage daughter Sara says when she was told they were leaving at first she didn’t believe it.

“I was like, no, this is going to be a bad joke,” she explains, “Then the day we left, I looked at my friends… they didn’t know that I was leaving and we will never see each other again.”

Despite promises by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to “stop the boats”, a record numbers of migrants have crossed the Channel so far this year.

Last week the family was among them, cramming into a rickety vessel with around 60 others.

“It was a difficult and dangerous journey that no one was expecting to survive. We were all thinking that our lives would end in a matter of seconds,” Mohammed says.

The boat left a French beach near Dunkirk at 10pm.

After around an hour into the journey they ran out of fuel and then drifted for hours.

The conditions meant children were screaming and crying.

Many onboard were being sick and everyone was soaked with freezing water.

When the French coastguard arrived, 25 people asked to be rescued but the other 36 refused, determined to keep pushing ahead.

Desperate to reach UK waters, they paddled with their hands and then used the dregs of the fuel to give them one last boost until they were picked up by the UK coastguard.

Read more:
Children among migrants rescued in Channel
More than 500 migrants cross Channel in one day

Migrants boat in The Channel
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A migrant boat seen crossing the Channel earlier this year

After hours of being “scared to die”, Sara said the relief was overwhelming.

They’re now waiting to hear their fate in temporary accommodation in the UK after applying for asylum.

Like many other asylum seekers I’ve spoken to, fresh threats of deportation or being sent to Rwanda weren’t a deterrent.

“What will stop people coming on that route?” I ask Mohammed.

“You can’t stop it. This is smuggling and it will continue,” he replies.

The family hopes they can stay but it isn’t guaranteed. While the UK wasn’t their first choice, they say it’s their last hope.

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