‘I wish I had never tried to enter the UK illegally’: Deported Albanian migrant ‘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 only known as Artan – said he paid criminals to cross the English Channel after borrowing money from friends and family.
Artan, who describes himself as an “economic migrant”, described the trip as “torturing” and “incredibly scary”.
He said French police ‘accompanied’ their boat into British waters when British police were called to be alerted to their presence.
Authorities met them in the waters and took them to their boat where they were given life jackets and taken ashore.
Artan was then taken to Manston reception center in Kent.
He told authorities he was an economic migrant and was sent back to Albania the next day.
Artan said of the trip across the English Channel: ‘It was unimaginable terror. For some, I would say don’t choose the dinghy. If there is a legal way, with a visa, then yes, go, but please never think of going on a dinghy.
A group of people believed to be migrants are brought to Dover, Kent, on board the Ramsgate Lifeboat following a small boat incident in the English Channel on October 27, 2022
Artan – assumed name – had managed to film part of his journey across the Channel
In a BBC interview, he added: “The traffickers were armed with knives and guns. They repeatedly threatened us, saying not to film anything and even not to smoke cigarettes because the light would reveal our location.
“Crossing the English Channel was torture. It was cold, stormy and incredibly scary.
“A French police boat appeared 20 minutes into our trip. They accompanied us at a distance of perhaps 200m, just for observation, which reassured us. They stayed three hours, maybe more. Then we crossed into UK waters and called the UK police.
“They told us they were coming to get us, not to panic. They were well behaved and seemed very welcoming and polite. We jumped on the UK police boat where we got life jackets .
He was taken to the Manston center in Kent, which was set up to accommodate people arriving in the UK via small boat crossings for just a few days while they were processed and alternative accommodation found.
But although it was built to accommodate up to 1,600 people at a time, by the end of October there were more than 4,000 people, including young families who had been at the center for more than 30 days.
Artan used his cell phone to document the short boat trip through the choppy waters
He said the French saw them leave French waters and continue into British territory
A view of the Manston Immigration Short Term Detention Facility located in the former Defense Fire Training and Development Center in Thanet, Kent
Reports have emerged of appalling conditions at the site, with families sleeping on the ground for weeks due to a lack of beds.
But Artan said he was turned away very quickly after explaining to authorities why he had arrived.
He said: “I said to the woman questioning me, ‘I know I came in illegally, but I didn’t come here for fun. I came because I want to work. I did not apply for asylum.
“I told them I was an economic migrant. My father is disabled. For 15 years, he has been living on an invalid’s pension, which is insufficient to buy his own medicine.
“If you enter a foreign country without proper documents, visas, stamps, of course you are entering illegally.
“Yes, there are legal means, but I was in a hurry. I opted for the fastest and cheapest way. The visa should be cheaper but I needed help with the application and people charge more than the canoe trip.
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 the whole trip, from the moment I got on that bus and realized I was deported, until I arrived in Albania.”