‘I wish I’d never tried to enter UK illegally’: Albanian migrant deported ‘bitterly regrets’ trip
An illegal Albanian migrant deported after paying £3,500 to be smuggled into the UK by small boat has urged others not to follow in his footsteps.
The man – who is known only as Artan – said he had paid criminals to get across the Channel after borrowing the cash from friends and family.
Artan, who describes himself as an ‘economic migrant’, described the journey as ‘torture’ and ‘incredibly scary’.
He said French police ‘accompanyed’ their boat into UK waters when British police were called to be alerted they were there.
The authorities met them in the waters and took them onto their boat where they were given life vests and taken to shore.
It was then Artan was taken to the Manston reception center in Kent.
He told authorities he was an economic migrant and he was sent back to Albania the following day.
Artan said of the journey across the channel: ‘It was an unimaginable terror. 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.’
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, onboard the Ramsgate Lifeboat following a small boat incident in the Channel on October 27, 2022
Artan – not his real name – had managed to film some of his journey across the Channel.
In an interview with the BBC, he added: ‘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.
‘The journey across the Channel was torture. It was cold, stormy and incredibly scary.
‘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 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.
He was taken to the Manston center in Kent, which was designed to hold people who had arrived in the UK via small boat crossings for just a couple of days while they were processed and alternative accommodation was found.
But despite being built to house up to 1,600 people at once, by the end of October there were more than 4,000 people there – including young families who had been at the center more than 30 days.
Artan used his mobile phone to document the small boat trip through the choppy waters.
He said the French watched them leave France’s waters and carry on into UK territory
A view of the Manston immigration short-term holding facility located at the former Defense Fire Training and Development Center in Thanet, Kent
There were reports of awful conditions at the site, with families left to sleep on the floor for weeks due to a lack of beds.
But Artan said he was turned around very quickly after telling authorities why he had arrived.
He said ‘I said to the woman interviewing me: ‘I know I have entered illegally, but I have not come here for fun. I have come because I want to work. I didn’t seek asylum.
‘I told them I was an economic migrant. My father is disabled. For 15 years he’s been living on a disabled person’s pension, not enough to buy his own medication.
‘If you enter a foreign country without proper documentation, visas, stamps, of course you are entering illegally.’
‘Yes there are legal ways, but I was in a hurry. I went for the fastest 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.
His brief trip to the UK ended when he was taken out of the center by police and put on a bus to the airport.
He is now banned from other European nations for the next three years.
Artan added: ‘I cried for the entire journey, from the moment I got on that bus and realized I was being deported, until I arrived in Albania.’