An Afghan asylum seeker has said he does not believe the Government’s planned legislation to clamp down on Channel crossings will deter other migrants from coming to the UK.
The 19-year-old, nicknamed Taraki, who arrived in the UK from Afghanistan last year after his family were shot dead in a suspected Taliban attack, believes Crossings will continue due to a lack of legal routes for migrants wishing to seek asylum in Britain.
It comes as an officer for the Border Force’s union said Rishi Sunak’s plan to crackdown on small boat crossings would lead to a spike in people trafficking across the Channel.
Lucy Moreton, from the ISU union, said criminal gangs would see the Government’s announcement as a “rallying call” to urge more migrants to attempt the dangerous journey.
Legislation to be unveiled tomorrow is expected to bar all asylum claims from those who come to the UK on small boats, with those arriving removed to a safe third country such as Rwanda and permanently banned from re-entering the UK.
Taraki said he fled Afghanistan as a 16-year-old after his father, a member of the Afghan army, his mother and younger brother were shot dead by the Taliban.
During a two-year journey to the UK, he lost three friends when 27 migrants drowned after their small boat sank in the Channel in November, 2021. They had asked him if he wanted to cross with them that night, he said.
Another friend died in front of him after he was electrocuted when they clambered out of an oil tanker they had hidden inside on a train in Greece.
Last year, around eight of his friends fled to the Republic of Ireland over fears they would be deported to Rwanda when the Home Office unveiled its plan to halt illegal migration.
Asked if the planned new law would deter others from making the perilous trip to the UK, he told i: “I don’t think so. But there is no other way for people to come to the UK, there is no legal way.
“If they make a legal way maybe it would be 100 per cent stopped. Nobody wants to come on a boat, but there is no other way. Afghanistan is in a war situation, it’s very bad.
“Some of the people are working for the Government, they are educated. Their life is not easy. I’ve seen a lot of videos when the Taliban took over. I saw a lot of people, they were in a good job in the Government, and they shot them in the head.
“I think if someone chooses to come to the UK [on small boats] I don’t think they will be stopped by the Government law. People still want to come here.
“If the person chooses to be, like, ‘I want to be here. I want to go to the UK’ I think no-one can stop him if there is no legal way. It’s an illegal way only for him.”
On Monday, Wes Streeting, the shadow secretary of state for health and social care, branded the Government’s plans a “cynical rehash of previous failed immigration policies” and said “we have got to have safe legal routes working”.
There are two UK Government schemes open to Afghan refugees – the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP), for current and former locally employed staff working with the UK Government, and the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS), set up to help those who assisted UK efforts in the country.
But Jamie Bell, a solicitor for Duncan Lewis, who specialises in dealing with Afghans hoping to seek asylum in the UK, told i in December that the two schemes are “beset by intolerable delays”.
On Sunday, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said that providing legal routes for migration has “been proven to work” and he was “quite sure” more would be brought in by the Government.
Taraki also said there is “no way” for Afghans fleeing the country to claim asylum from neighbouring countries such as Pakistan.
“They caught a lot of illegal Afghan people who ran away from Afghanistan to Pakistan because of the Taliban takeover. Pakistan kept them in custody for three months, four months, a lot of children, women and they deported them back to Afghanistan,” he said.
“Even the nearest country Pakistan, they don’t accept us.”
Taraki is still waiting for his asylum claim to be processed after having his interview with the Home Office in July.
Now staying in a hotel in London, he said he has been told he must move to the Government’s asylum processing centre at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, for up to 90 days while his claim is considered.
Taraki, a keen cricketer, has said he doesn’t want to leave the UK, adding: “I have friends, I’m doing volunteering with social community, cleaning parks and primary schools.
“I have kind of built my life here. I have college exams this month and I play cricket here. I don’t know why they tried to move me to Folkestone.”
Ms Moreton said that the planned legislation would cause a short-term spike in attempted Channel crossings.
“We know from experience the criminals who run this do use it as a rallying call – ‘get over now before they change the law’,” she told i.
“Because that’s what they did last time when the Rwanda plan was announced – crossings absolutely surged.
“Partly it was Spring. But certainly what we were being told by migrants was that they were being encouraged to cross quickly before that plan came into place.
“The more people that they drive across, the more money they get. Ultimately, if the UK is successful, then that’s their money cut off.
“Anything that smugglers can do or say to encourage people to pay the money and to come as soon as possible they’re going to do.”
She added: “At the moment, they [the Government] are looking only at small boats. So the inevitable impact is that this will just drive everyone back on to lorries.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Secretary has been clear that if you arrive in the UK illegally, you should not be allowed to stay.
“We will shortly introduce legislation which will ensure that people arriving in the UK illegally are detained and promptly returned to their home country or a safe third country.
“Our work with France is also vital to tackling the unacceptable rise in dangerous Channel crossings. We share a determination to tackle this issue together, head-on, to stop the boats.”