Syrian refugee, 64, fights to remain in UK after an arduous journey

The baker from Ghouta fled Syria after military attacks killed relatives

A Syrian refugee who fled war and eventually made it to Britain is fighting to stay in the country, after crossing the English Channel in an overcrowded boat to claim asylum.

Abu Ayman, 64, told The National he dreams of a peaceful life if he can obtain permission to remain from the UK authorities, currently considering his refugee status.

The baker fled Syria after military attacks killed his relatives.

He survived the dangerous cross-channel route into southern England but could still be deported to a homeland that represents a threat to him after the deaths of many in his family.

“I had resigned myself to fate. I never expected that I’d make it to Britain,” said Mr Ayman.

He recounted how, after reaching Europe, he decided to try for England after being denied asylum in Denmark.

“I met some people who had bought a small boat. We made a deal and I paid them €2,800.

“I had a bag with my belongings. I was carrying some clothes, and some medicines. I stared death in the eyes when I came to the UK from France."

Every now and again, the small boat would fill up with water, Mr Ayman said.

"I was sitting on the floor, and they were trying to get rid of the water, but the boat kept filling up with more," he said.

"It would take on more and more, and they would try to remove it.”

He described the terror in Syria as bombs and military attacks killed his relatives.

“During the war, our lives were at risk. Syrian Army soldiers would knock on our door, and come inside carrying their guns," Mr Ayman said.

“They killed my 16-year-old nephew. They killed my niece’s husband. They had two children. In Ghouta, 30 of my family members died, all of them. One night there was a chemical weapons attack, by the morning, they were all dead.”

Now Mr Ayman, is living in London but, with no family or money, he is at risk of deportation. He dreams of peace and has nightmares over Syria

“I was living happily in my country before this all happened. If I could sit under a tree eating just a piece of bread, I would be happy in my own country," he said.

But the war happened and they were forced to leave, he said.

"I have nightmares about Syria. I see jets bombing me, I see people attacking me," said Mr Ayman.

“I don’t want money, or anything like that. I just want to live in safety.

"That’s the reason I decided to leave Syria. All I want is to treat my illnesses, take my medicines, and just look after myself.”

People smugglers have increased passenger numbers on small boats crossing the English Channel at night to maximise their profits.

Coastguard figures show nine boats carrying at least 50 people were intercepted or monitored by British officials in July this year off England’s south-east coast.

The figures confirm intelligence reports that organised criminal gangs behind the lucrative trade are packing more people on to bigger boats and sending them across a longer section of the North European coastline to avoid patrols and ensure greater profit.

Updated: August 19th 2021, 3:12 PM