Iranian migrant tells of 'miracle' boat rescue in Channel

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French rescueImage source, Gendarmerie maritime
Image caption,
Dozens of people have been rescued in the Channel and returned to France since November 2018

An Iranian migrant who spent eight hours clinging to a dingy in the English Channel has described the "miracle" moment he was rescued.

Ali, whose name has been changed, said he believed he would die when waves battered the small boat as he tried to reach England from France in December.

The civil engineer, 26, said he fled Iran because he feared reprisals for joining anti-government protests.

He said: "I had a job, I had money. [I left] because my life was at risk."

At least 330 people have made it to the UK aboard small boats since November last year.

A group of 34 - including 28 men, one women and five children - were brought ashore by the Border Force on Monday.

'Very dangerous'

Ali attempted to cross the Channel with eight others, including a family, in December, but quickly got into trouble.

"I saw one and half metre waves and you can't understand. You climb up with the waves, the waves transfer you, they lead you.

"And you just go with the waves, you don't have any choice. It's very, very dangerous.

"We didn't have a phone in the ocean and we didn't have any sign, and after eight hours, finally, I think it's a miracle, the police find us."

Image caption,
Two Border Force cutters have been redeployed to the Channel after the rise in crossings

Ali was returned to France and said he now spends every night attempting to stow away on lorries.

He said his father paid people smugglers £15,000 to bring him to England, but he was abandoned in northern France after he refused to pay more for the final leg of the journey.

Ali said he was determined to join his brother and sister, who both live in the UK.

His sister came to the country after marrying a British-born man of Iranian descent, while his brother stayed after studying at university.

"Every night I try, maybe I get to UK because my sister and my brother live there and the UK is safe for me," Ali said.

"I had a house, I had a car, I had a job, I had money, and just I go out of my country because my life was at risk."

Ali said he viewed England as "a safe place" where "my enemy can't find me and can't kill me and I can one night sleep very well without stress".

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