Europe

Albanian migrant wishes he ‘never tried to enter UK illegally’

Albanian man films dinghy crossing on the English channel

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An Albanian migrant has unveiled the true horror of his attempt to reach the UK on an illegal small boat crossing after he paid people smugglers roughly £3,500. The man, going by the fake name of Artan, eventually reached UK shores, although he was promptly deported after he claimed to be an economic migrant. Now back in Albania, Artan has urged other migrants not to make the deadly Channel crossing and, instead, to seek legal routes into the UK. In a message to migrants, he told the BBC: “Please never think about leaving on a dinghy.”

Artan claimed he had borrowed money from family and friends to cover the fee demanded by the Kurdish people smugglers he was in contact with.

Despite being warned by the smugglers not to record any parts of their journey, Artan managed to film some clips of the evidently rocky journey across the Channel.

He said: “The traffickers were armed with knives and pistols. They were repeatedly threatening us, saying not to film anything and not even to smoke cigarettes as the light would give away our location.”

In part of the video, the French coast guard can be seen loitering near the dinghy, monitoring the progress of the crossing. Later, the group encountered the British coast guard as they neared the south of the UK.

Artan claimed: “The journey across the Channel was torture.”

He continued: “A French police boat appeared 20 minutes into our journey. They accompanied us from a distance of maybe 200m, just observing, which reassured us.

“They stayed for three hours, maybe more. Then we crossed into UK waters and called the British police.

“​They told us they were coming to get us, that we mustn’t panic. They behaved well and seemed very welcoming and polite. 

“We jumped to the UK police boat where we got life vests.”

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Justifying his decision to enter the UK illegally, he added: “There are legal ways, but I was in a hurry. I went for the quickest and cheapest way. The visa should be cheaper but I needed help with the application and people charge more for that than the dinghy journey.”

Speaking of the moment he realised he was to be deported back to Albania, Artan said: “At that moment I was so upset I can’t describe it. I felt like my brain was exploding and I could do nothing about it all.

“I cried for the entire journey, from the moment I got on that bus and realised I was being deported until I arrived in Albania.”

He added: “For certain, I’d say don’t choose the dinghy. If there is a legal way, with a visa, then yes leave, but please never think about leaving on a dinghy.”

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The number of Albanian migrants arriving on UK shores through illegal crossings has risen sharply in the last few months.

Between May and September this year, Albanian nationals alone comprised 42 percent of small boat crossings, amounting to 11,102 people. By comparison, throughout the whole of 2021, only 815 Albanian nationals arrived in this way.

The sharp increase in Albanian arrivals has generated renewed interest in the migrant crisis after record numbers of migrants arrived in the UK this year.

In the first six months of this year, some 7,627 Albanian nationals claimed asylum in the UK, with over half expected to have their asylum claims approved. 

Despite this, the average rate of asylum approval for Albanians remains lower in comparison to the general rate of 76 percent approval for all nationalities.

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