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Migrants tell of perilous Channel crossings as they arrive in the UK

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Migrants tell of perilous Channel crossings as they arrive in the UK

LONDON: Ali sat shivering and exhausted on a pebble beach on England’s south coast but thankful for a “new life” after he and 30 other migrants were rescued in the Channel.

The Syrian asylum seeker, from the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, said he had been stranded in the sea between England and France for 12 hours on an inflatable boat before he and the others, including several children, were plucked to safety.

Ali, 22, who gave only his first name, was brought ashore on Wednesday. On the other side of the busy Channel, 27 fellow migrants were not so lucky. Men, women and children perished in the freezing winter water when their boat capsized, in the deadliest accident in the Channel since UN migration records began in 2014.

Ali and the others could have suffered the same fate: they had to use plastic bottles to bail out water that threatened to sink their own vessel beneath the waves. “We were scared because we didn’t know what would happen with us,” he told AFP moments after he disembarked a rescue vessel near Dungeness lifeboat station in Kent. “We were in the middle of the sea. There were children in the boat. Of course we were worried for them, worried for everybody.”

Ali’s story is an increasingly familiar one of exploitation and desperation that has seen urgent calls for a crackdown on those trading in human misery. He paid a people smuggler in France £2,000 ($2,664, 2,375 euros) for a place on a large rubber dinghy.

Migrant crossings by boat to England have risen to record highs this year, even beyond the warmer summer months. The British authorities have linked the increase in arrivals to the use of larger inflatable boats than in previous years.

Wednesday’s tragedy did little to deter others from attempting the same crossing. Along the coast in Dover, more arrivals were brought in from the early morning on Thursday, and transferred to a red double-decker bus at the port, before being processed.

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