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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Diane Taylor

Mother whose children were sent across Channel without her arrives in UK

A dinghy drifting in the Channel. The woman said the smuggler was afraid the police would stop their boat from leaving so he pushed it out to sea.
A dinghy drifting in the Channel. The woman said the smuggler was afraid the police would stop their boat from leaving so he pushed it out to sea. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The mother of three Eritrean children seeking asylum, who were forced to cross the Channel from northern France in a dinghy without her after smugglers separated the family, has arrived in the UK and is desperate to reunite with her children.

The woman, 31, was staying in northern France with her children in December last year, hoping to reach the UK. She paid smugglers for places on a dinghy for herself and the children, a boy aged 14 and two girls aged nine and five, to cross the Channel on 16 December.

She said she believed the UK was the place where she would find safety and a respect for the human rights of her family after fleeing persecution in her home country followed by further abuse including torture in Sudan and Libya.

“We went to the beach on 16 December and were preparing to get on the dinghy,” she said. “First, I put my oldest son on to the boat, then my second child and then the smallest one. I was about to get on to the boat with them when the police came and tried to stop the boat from leaving the shore.

“The smuggler was afraid the police would stop the boat from leaving so he pushed it out to the sea before I could get on the boat. I tried to get into the water to join my children on the boat but I fell in the water and could not get on the boat. They called an ambulance for me and I was taken to hospital.”

Her youngest child turned six on 26 December and the first time she was allowed to speak on the phone to the children was on the child’s birthday. She said she was so distraught after the enforced separation that she barely ate or slept.

Legal representations were made to the Home Office by Jamie Bell of Duncan Lewis solicitors to try to reunite the family in the UK. An expert psychological report found that the enforced separation from her children was causing her “acute psychological harm”.

The mother was becoming increasingly desperate about being separated from her children and, 40 days after they travelled on the dinghy to the UK without her, she boarded another dinghy on 25 January and made it safely to the UK, praying that she could be speedily reunited with her children.

The numbers who crossed the Channel in small boats in January have been relatively low but she was one of 321 people who crossed that day.

The mother said: “I know my children are safe but I am their mother. I need to be with them. I cannot be separated from them. My children are my whole life. I just want to be reunited with them and to see them grow up in safety and security.”

Bell said: ‘We are delighted that our client has made it to the United Kingdom and we hope that she can be reunited with her children very soon. It is a shame that her request for a safe and legal route to the UK was not responded to.”

The children are currently in foster care in the south of England.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases. The welfare of the victims of these abhorrent people smugglers is our utmost priority. That’s why we continue to work closely with France and other partners to put an end to this evil trade and save lives.

“People smugglers are tearing apart families for profit, with no regard for the lives they put at risk. Their lack of humanity is despicable.”

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