Migrants tell of risky journeys crossing Channel

Sitting in a small boat with 22 other migrants, lashed by driving rain and heaving waves,

Abdullah al Badri thought he was going to drown in the English Channel.

The 27-year-old Bedouin from Kuwait had been traveling across Europe for four years - a stateless refugee looking for a new home.

"It was really not easy to go in the boat and I was saying to myself, 'what's going to happen? I'm going to die like the child from Syria'."

He says he was born without citizenship, unable to access essential services such as healthcare, open a bank account, or claim other rights.

Authorities in Kuwait and other Gulf states say many stateless people are "illegal residents" and include immigrants who hid or destroyed their passports to claim nationality and take advantage of financial benefits granted to citizens.

Many people among the nomadic Bedouin tribes failed to acquire citizenship when Kuwait became independent in 1961.

Unable to get a passport, his family paid people smugglers $20,000 to facilitate his travel over the next four years, starting with a flight to Turkey on falsified documents.

He traveled to Belgium, where he stayed for two years before his refugee claim was rejected,

then on to Switzerland and France, to begin what he hoped was his final journey to Britain

where he awaits an interview with immigration officials to determine his refugee status.

If refused, he believes he would be deported.

The British government says it wants to make the country less attractive to asylum seekers. Under proposed legislation, those trying to enter illegally would face up to four years in prison.

Al Badri says he did not know the journey was illegal. This man, who took the same sea journey six weeks earlier, says he did know, but felt he had no choice.

"Three times I was in jail, just for that reason, I am gay.”

He asked Reuters not to identify him for fear of repercussions for his family in Iraq.

“Police officer come into my room in jail. He slapped me too much to my face and fighting with me, and he told to me we will tell your family you are gay and when they know you are gay they will kill you and that's very big problem for you."

Iraq's government says it is committed to guaranteeing rights for all minority groups, but its largely conservative society generally frowns upon homosexuality.

The 32-year-old said he never felt safe in Iraq and so decided to leave.

Now in England, he is awaiting an interview to assess his refugee status, improving his language skills and hopes to work as an interpreter.

"Finally I can say I have found my way. I am in safe, safe, safe country and this country they have a freedom."

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