Teenage asylum seeker ‘terrified’ boat might sink in Channel
Written by Hit Music Radio News on 11/09/2019
A teenage asylum seeker, who crossed the English Channel in a small boat three weeks ago, has told Sky News he was “terrified” and believed his boat might sink.
The Iranian youngster, who was an unaccompanied minor, has now claimed asylum but may face a lengthy wait to determine whether he’ll be granted refugee status.
Sky News was granted rare access to a centre in Folkestone, where young refugees are being helped by a local charity.
The Kent Refugee Action Network has helped more than 400 teenage asylum seekers in the past couple of years.
We joined the charity’s staff and volunteers as they helped a group of six young asylum seekers to adjust to life in the UK, with special classes in English and maths, as well as other advice and practical assistance with their asylum process.
We cannot identify the youngsters because of their age, but the group from Afghanistan, Iran and Syria said they had all fled conflict and desperate conditions in their home countries.
The Iranian teen was one of 336 migrants who crossed the Channel in August, in what was a record month for migrant crossings.
The young man said he claimed asylum on his arrival.
“I spent one day at a police station and another day at another centre.”
Rough crossings: The migrants desperate to reach Britain
Hundreds of migrants have tried to cross the English Channel in tiny dinghies in the last few months
Already this month, more than 100 migrants have made the perilous journey, desperate to reach the UK.
Another teenager from Afghanistan told us: “I was in Dunkirk for three months.
“There was 18 people on my small boat. It was a small one, all the people were on this small boat, not a big one. I was scared.”
Another Afghani teenager told us he had been in Calais for six months, trying to make it to the UK.
He eventually made it in the back of a lorry, the route the majority of cross channel migrants still choose.
At the Folkestone centre a local couple in their 80s volunteer to help the youngsters adjust to British life.
Janet and Derek Peirce said they had heard countless stories of the trauma that has forced youngsters into risking their lives to get here.
Derek Peirce said: “I think a lot of people are just in fear for their lives or they wouldn’t be here. They would never risk that journey. I know I wouldn’t.”
Janet Peirce agreed: “Nobody surely would leave their home and embark on a journey that is full of danger.
“As a mother and grandmother, you can’t just hear their stories and not do something to help. That’s why we help as much as we can here.”
Staff at the Kent Refugee Action Network said they would continue to do all they could to try to help child refugees seeking asylum in the UK.
But the charity has no central government funding. It relies on the generosity of local people, along with some small grants from local government and other agencies.
Two migrants have died attempting to cross to the UK in recent weeks, and as weather conditions worsen in the months ahead, authorities fear it may only be a matter of time before there’s more tragedy in the Channel.
Migrant boats intercepted off Dover coast
Two small boats carrying immigrants have been intercepted by Border Force officials in the Channel
The Home Office has issued a fresh warning to migrants not to attempt the crossing.
But those warnings have had no impact on the rapidly increasing numbers trying to reach Britain by small boat.
The Kent Refugee Action Network said as long as these people keep coming, they will continue to do all they can to help them.
© Sky News 2019