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Page last updated at 14:09 GMT, Friday, 11 January 2008

Destination UK

A reconstruction of the hazardous journey from Africa to Europe
Panorama: Destination UK, BBC One 8.30pm Monday 14 January

Last year, Panorama reported on a dramatic sea rescue in which 27 migrants came close to drowning on the hazardous crossing from Africa to Europe.

The route the migrants took, from Libya, is one of the most dangerous illegal immigration routes into Europe.

Their attempt to reach Italy ended when their boat sank, leaving them stranded for three days, holding on desperately to a vast tuna net in the middle of the Mediterranean.

They were finally plucked from the sea by the Italian navy and taken to Italy, where the government gave them permission to stay for a year as a humanitarian gesture. If they haven't found work after a year, they may not be allowed to stay and could be returned to Africa.

Libya is such a magnet for migrants that they now make up about a quarter of the population. The International Organization for Migration has a programme for the assistance of migrants in Libya that is partly funded by the EU and the Italian government.

Tighter border controls

We spoke to some of the migrants, rescued from the tuna nets, about their hopes for the future and plans to travel to the UK to find work. Since that programme, the British government has said that unskilled workers from non-EU countries will be banned from taking jobs in the UK for the "foreseeable future".

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, announced the new measures to control immigration in a speech to the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). She admitted the government needed to do more to win public confidence in border controls. She said:

"I believe the benefits of migration - benefits that we all share in - should be underpinned by the robustness of the systems that we have in place to regulate it, and by the expectations we have of those who come to Britain to work, to live, and to build a better life for themselves."

Habib Rahman, Chief Executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said, the new system:

"Slams the door in the faces of the unskilled and people in the developing world, while creaming off their most highly trained and educated individuals."

Panorama caught up with some of the migrants to find out if life so far in Europe had lived up to their expectations.



Atiku is an economic migrant from Ghana who was rescued from the tuna net. He was aiming for the UK to find work, but when we spoke to him again, he'd made it as far as Bresia at the foot of the Italian Alps.

Last time we met him, he was buzzing with excitement and ambition, now he's sleeping rough in a train station, scavenging in litter bins and begging:

"I can't steal... so begging is better for me. That will be better for me to survive."

He would still like to go to England, but his priority is finding work and somewhere to live.

Justice Amin

Justice Amin

Justice, at 18 is the youngest of the men rescued from the tuna net. He is an economic migrant from Ghana. He left after his parents were killed in a car crash and has come to Europe to make money to send back to his younger brother and sister still in Ghana.

He's now living in Breno, a small town in the Italian Alps where he is living in a charity hostel run for migrants. He takes two Italian lessons a week, without the language it will be tough to find work and without work it's unlikely his year long licence to stay in Europe will be extended.

Despite his idyllic surroundings he still finds his situation frustrating. He explains:

"I'm here to find work to do so that I can help my family in Africa. That's why I'm here in Europe. So I'm not happy. I mean, I like this area, this place I am living. [But] I'm not happy.



Vito is an economic migrant from Nigeria. He's living 30kms from Venice in a former military camp that now houses drug addicts and migrants. Nine of the men from the tuna net are living here in a place that is rural and isolated - not the busy city they need to find work.

He tells Panorama that life in Europe isn't what he was expecting:

"They are not treating us well... there is no work for black people, for illegal immigrants, all of them are wandering the street, looking for, begging money."


John is also from Nigeria, he is still hoping to get political asylum. He told us that he fled when his father and brother were killed for their Christian beliefs.

He is living in the same camp as Vito and he too is disillusioned with his experience of Europe:

"Not that we were expecting money or a house, no. But as an illegal immigrant we need a job."

Panorama: Destination UK can be seen on BBC One at 2030 GMT on Monday 14 January 2008

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