The family immediately claimed asylum
The Iraqi Kurds paid a total of £18,000 to people traffickers before succeeding in crossing the Channel. The mother, father and two young boys finally made it to Dover in the back of a lorry hidden among its cargo of Oreo chocolate biscuits.
The family immediately claimed asylum and are now being housed and fed in refugee accommodation in Cardiff. Jubilant father Hawkar Salah declared: “We made it. This is my dream, of course. We want to build a new life here and we want to stay forever.”
The family’s extraordinary journey highlights both the persistence and courage of migrants who risk everything to reach the UK. Hawkar, 28, a trained engineer, said their relentless quest lasted two years and they once almost froze to death when loaded into a freezer truck.
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The mother, father and two young boys finally made it to Dover
When we came to Europe we wanted to come to England but we don’t know any way we can legally come here
Their youngest child was not even born when Hawkar, a Sunni Muslim, and his wife Hozan, now 26, made their way from Iraq into Europe. They were intent on coming to the UK but people smugglers they had paid £5,000 took them to Norway instead.
They claimed asylum in Scandinavia but were rejected and after 11 months headed to northern France, arriving in September of last year. But Hawkar refused to claim asylum in France, saying he would rather risk the lives of his family trying to reach Britain.
He, Hozan, and their son Hevar, now two, made a home of sorts in a migrant camp in Grande-Synthe, near Dunkirk, where a Daily Express reporting team encountered them in October. Their second son Zhikr, now three months old, had just been born in the camp.
Hawkar claims to have attempted to reach the UK on 12 previous occasions before their final successful journey across the Channel. He says the family were swindled out of £6,000 on one occasion by traffickers and they had to ask relatives in Iraq to send more money.
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On the night of January 31 after paying another £7,000 they were taken across the border to Belgium by a masked trafficker who handpicked a British lorry. They were hidden in a forest near a truck park until smugglers had prised open the truck’s trailer doors and bundled them into the back. They were shoved into a tiny airless space among the cargo of chocolate biscuits where they waited for nine hours while the driver slept.
So desperate were they to make it Hawkar sedated his boys with sleeping medication so they would not wake too often during the 15-hour journey to Britain. The engineer said last night: “We don’t speak and we don’t eat inside the lorry because if we do maybe the driver knows we are inside and opens the door and calls the police.” Hawkar managed to track their progress using GPS on his mobile phone. A screenshot shows the truck in a holding bay at the ferry terminal in Calais moments before it boards a ferry.
They cleared border controls in France undetected but were found when the baby of another family concealed in the same lorry started crying when they docked at Dover on February 1, alerting Border Force guards. Hawkar said: “They arrested us but we were already in Dover so it’s fine, no problem, we made it. This is my dream, of course. My life in Iraq was not good.
“When we came to Europe we wanted to come to England but we don’t know any way we can legally come here. I know lots of people trying to get to England by lorries. It is so dangerous. “We think England is better than every country because they look after you. We want to build a new life here and we want to stay forever. We don’t want to go back to Iraq.”
They were shoved into a tiny space with a cargo of chocolate biscuits
During a five-hour interview with Border Force guards the family claimed asylum. They say they fled the Middle East because of the threat from Islamic State jihadists. They were put up in a London hotel for two nights before being transferred to a two-bedroom terraced house in Cardiff while their application is processed. Hawkar claims he is not obliged to report to immigration officials but says his family will not disappear into the black economy because he wants a chance to state his case an start a new life here.
Sources say it is extremely unlikely the family will be removed as they have two young children. Even if they are refused asylum, they can appeal, a process that could keep them here for years. The family has been given Home Office identification cards indicating they are one of 77,440 active asylum cases.
They are banned from finding work but will receive taxpayer-funded support for as long as they remain in the UK. Their lodging is managed by asylum accommodation provider Ready Homes and is dry and warm with hot running water. It is a far cry from the damp and draughty wooden shack they called home in Dunkirk, before it was destroyed in an arson attack last year.
The family is fed three times a day, a diet mainly consisting of potatoes, hamburgers and chicken. They eat with 100 other migrants at a local refugee centre five minutes from their temporary home on a quiet residential street just outside the city centre.
Sources say it is extremely unlikely the family will be removed as they have two young children
They will soon be rehoused at which point they will be entitled to asylum support, which guarantees £36.95 for every person in their family and extra because they have two children under three. They have access to free health care and used it when Hawkar took his eldest boy to hospital because he was suffering a fever and received vaccinations.
They have no idea where they will be rehoused but want to live in Bradford to join lawyer Hozan’s sister and cousin who live there after they also made it into the UK illegally and claimed asylum. Hawkar said: “If we have a house and my child goes to school we will not stay at home. We want to live like everyone else and make a better future for our children.
“We feel safe, of course. In France we didn’t feel safe. We didn’t want to be there, it is no good for refugees. I heard Norway sends a lot of people back to Iraq. We don’t want to go back to Norway. We love England and the people are friendly. We love them.” Their case shows the total failure of Britain’s border security and the continuing activity of smuggling gangs despite the closure of the Calais Jungle camp.
Hawkar claims at least 150 people a month are still trying to get themselves across the Channel. Yesterday the Daily Express revealed that in the first six months of last year 24,800 migrants were caught trying to sneak into Britain from the Continent but experts suggest at least the same number make it undetected.
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Hawkar Salah's GPS track screenshot taken from the back of the lorry as he arrived in Dover
Charlie Elphicke, Tory MP for Dover, said after hearing Hawkar’s story: “This shocking case underlines the extreme lengths migrants will go to break into Britain. “Ruthless people traffickers con desperate families like this into giving up their life savings. The smugglers then bundle them into the back of a lorry and make off.
“The Calais Jungle may be gone but these criminals gangs are still out there preying on the vulnerable. We must do all we can to smash these people traffickers and end their evil trade of modern slavery.”
The Home Office said: “The UK Government has repeatedly urged migrants not to put their lives, and those of loved ones, in the hands of heartless people smugglers who profit from the misery of others.
“We are continuing to target these callous criminals, who demand vast sums of money to facilitate illegal entry into the UK and do not care if migrants are crushed or suffocate in the process.”
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