Mother-of-two describes the reality of crossing the Channel... including tying ...

Mother-of-two describes the reality of crossing the Channel... including tying ...
Mother-of-two describes the reality of crossing the Channel... including tying ...

A migrant mother has told how she and her two young children nearly drowned trying to reach the UK by boat – but she is still planning another perilous crossing.

Joan, 32, revealed that she and her son Zanyar, ten, and daughter Sidra, nine, were among 33 would-be asylum-seekers who nearly died last week when their ramshackle vessel capsized at night after seven hours at sea.

After they were rescued, French authorities put them up in a hotel for three days, before returning them to a squalid camp in Dunkirk where they are planning their next attempt.

Speaking exclusively to The Mail on Sunday, the Kurdistani national said of the ill-fated journey: 'I felt that something bad would happen and I was very scared.

Joan, 32, revealed that she and her son Zanyar, ten, and daughter Sidra, nine, were among 33 would-be asylum-seekers who nearly died last week when their vessel capsized at night

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Joan, 32, revealed that she and her son Zanyar, ten, and daughter Sidra, nine, were among 33 would-be asylum-seekers who nearly died last week when their vessel capsized at night

'The waves became bigger and then the engine failed. We were in the boat for about seven hours during the night and then it flipped over and tipped us all into the water.'

Earlier, as darkness fell, they had been picked up from the camp by a car and driven several miles to a beach, where she and her children were given just one lifejacket – even though none of them can swim. 

Joan said: 'There were 33 people who were going on this small rigid inflatable boat from the beach.

'We had to wade through the water to get to it. I was carrying my children and the water came up to my neck.

'I had to be helped into the boat and when we were all in, the guy in charge of the outboard motor had to start it by touching two wires together.

'But he made a mistake and everyone got an electric shock because we were all wet.

'My son passed out because of the shock and I was very worried because I didn't even know if he was alive. I told them, 'Please, I want to go back because I think my son is dead'.

'They said, 'No, you cannot leave and, if you do, it will be a problem for you,' and we set off as my son came round.'

Joan, her two children and their uncle, Karim (pictured with Zanyar), are now among 300 migrants in one such Dunkirk camp where people live in tents under tarpaulins

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Joan, her two children and their uncle, Karim (pictured with Zanyar), are now among 300 migrants in one such Dunkirk camp where people live in tents under tarpaulins

With the sea becoming increasingly choppy as the journey progressed, Joan took some string from her bag and used it to tie the children to her. Speaking about being thrown into the water, she added: 'All I could do was hang on to my children.

'But it was difficult because we only had the one lifejacket.

'Luckily, one of the other guys came to help me.

'It was really cold and I thought we were all going to die.

'After about one hour in the water, the French arrived and put us in a boat to take us back to France. I felt like we were already dead.

'They took us to a police station which was a bit like a hospital.

'They fed us and looked after us, and we stayed for a day.

'Then the police took us to a hotel, where we were looked after for three days before being told to leave.' 

Last week, The Mail on Sunday became one of the first media organisations to visit new camps in northern France where more than 2,000 people are living.

Record numbers of migrants from these camps have launched crossings spanning the Channel to the UK this year.

Attempts by French police to prevent migrants gathering en masse in busy areas around Calais – the site of the infamous Jungle camp – and Dunkirk have resulted in them dispersing over a huge areas, making it harder for the authorities to monitor them.

As a result, nearly 8,000 migrants have attempted the dangerous crossing so far this year – around the same number as during the whole of last year.

Joan, her two children and their uncle, Karim, are now among 300 migrants in one such Dunkirk camp where people live in tents under tarpaulins.

Although there are no toilets, they do have running water and food and clothing are provided by local and British charities.

Among the other child migrants in the camp are Islam, seven, and Aya, ten, whose happy smiles masked the horrors of their journey to northern France.

Among the other child migrants in the camp are Islam, seven, and Aya (above), ten, whose happy smiles masked the horrors of their journey to France

Among the other child migrants in the camp are Islam (above), seven, and Aya, ten, whose happy smiles masked the horrors of their journey to France

Among the other child migrants in the camp are Islam (right), seven, and Aya (left), ten, whose happy smiles masked the horrors of their journey to northern France

Meanwhile, in anticipation of a new life – or perhaps in a bid to fit in more easily in this country – one adult migrant has already had the slogan 'I love London' tattooed on his arm, with a heart in place of the word 'love'.

For her part, Joan – widowed when her husband was shot dead in 2014 while serving with Kurdish forces against Islamic State fighters – said she had spent around

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