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Migrants 'trying to cross back over English Channel to Europe because of Rwanda threat', Syrian asylum seeker claims

7 May 2024, 16:13 | Updated: 7 May 2024, 17:46

Syrian asylum seeker's emotional story with Tom Swarbrick

By Kit Heren

Migrants are being pushed to cross back over the English Channel to Europe amid the threat of being sent to Rwanda, a Syrian asylum seeker has told LBC.

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Suhaib Jaber told LBC's Tom Swarbrick that some of his fellow migrants are "disappearing" to avoid being sent to the east African country.

After years of trying, the government finally passed its Rwanda plan into law last month, meaning that migrants who arrive in the UK illegally can be removed there.

Rishi Sunak believes the policy will help stop people from making the trip across the Channel in small boats, which is notoriously dangerous.

Five migrants - including a seven-year-old girl - died making the journey in late April.

Read more: First asylum seeker flown to Rwanda with £3,000 of taxpayer's cash under voluntary deportation scheme

Read more: More than half of migrants bound for deportation to Rwanda missing, Home Office admits

Mr Jaber, who arrived in the UK in 2022 on a small boat after a tortuous journey from Syria across Europe, has been told he is eligible for removal to Rwanda.

He said he could be detained as soon as Wednesday, after he reports for a scheduled appointment with the Home Office.

Mr Jaber said he would go to the appointment because he "respect[s] the law" - but others he knows who are in a similar situation would not.

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"A number of my friends... are disappearing now," he told Tom. "Unfortunately, they are so frightened. And most of them leave the accommodation where they live."

First phase of detentions underway for Rwanda relocations as Home Office carried out 'enforcement raids'

News emerged after the Rwanda plan was passed that some migrants had been crossing the border from Northern Ireland into the Republic to avoid being deported.

But Mr Jaber said others are "trying to go to Dover to go again to Europe."

Several migrants were detained by British authorities last week ahead of removal flights to Rwanda.

Mr Jaber compared footage of the raids to authorities "chasing asylum seekers like if we were as as if we were leaders in the terrorist organisation".

Migrants crossing the Channel on a small boat
Migrants crossing the Channel on a small boat. Picture: Getty

He added: "When I saw these videos, I thought or I feel like those people who are being chased by the police are criminals or leaders in a terrorist organisation or bad people.

"But all of what they did is they ask for a safe place. I don't think it's a crime."

Mr Jaber, a journalist who has a wife and four children, left Syria after the country's government took issue with his reporting. He and his father were arrested and tortured during the civil war in 2011.

In 2014, he was captured by ISIS and says the terrorist group planned to behead him - but he managed to escape from prison.

Mr Jaber fled to Turkey, but was still being pursued by the terrorists there, so moved on to Europe with the help of people smugglers.

He said he was tortured in Bulgaria and suffered racist treatment in Serbia, before moving on to Germany, where he was still threatened by ISIS.

Mr Jaber eventually moved on to France, and tried to claim asylum - but said he was told it was impossible.

He then paid "thousands" of pounds for a place on a small boat bound for the English coast. He borrowed that money from friends and relatives.

Since arriving in the UK and claiming asylum, Mr Jaber has found work as a graphic designer. He said life in the UK was "good".

A group of people thought to be migrants including young children are brought in to Dover, Kent, from a Border Force vessel following a small boat incident in the Channel. Picture date: Tuesday May 7, 2024.
A group of people thought to be migrants including young children are brought in to Dover, Kent, from a Border Force vessel following a small boat incident in the Channel. Picture date: Tuesday May 7, 2024. Picture: Alamy

"There's difficulties everywhere around the world, there is difficulties and problems in any country," he added. "But in general, the UK is good. You can live a normal life, safe life here in the UK and that's what I'm looking for."

Mr Jaber also said he felt safer from the threat from ISIS here in the UK than in other European countries.

He said he understood that some UK residents feel that current high levels of migration put a strain on housing and public services.

"But will this policy of Rwanda end these problems?" he added.

"Will the problems of the UK... be solved if you send all of the asylum seekers to Rwanda?"

Mr Jaber urged Mr Sunak and Home Secretary Rishi Sunak to let asylum seekers "be a part of solving these problems."

He said that he could have understood more easily if his asylum application had been rejected quickly.

But to be kept on for nearly two years before being told he might be removed to Rwanda entailed unnecessary "suffering", he added.

Mr Jaber has not seen his family for over 18 months. They have contacted him "so scared", asking him what will happen to him under the Rwanda plan.

"I, all the time, keep saying to them that nothing will happen, but I don't know, actually, I don't know what what will happen with me."

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The first illegal migrants set to be removed to Rwanda have now been detained by highly trained teams, following a series of nationwide operations. 

"We will get flights off the ground to Rwanda in the next eight to eleven weeks, creating the deterrent effect to help break up the people smuggling business model and stop the boats."

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