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Last Updated: Friday, 20 July 2007, 08:02 GMT 09:02 UK
An asylum seeker's escape: part three
By Russell Joslin
BBC News

An asylum seeker who was deported to Iran in 2004 has been describing how he managed to escape from custody and make his way back to the UK.

In the last of this three-part series, BBC News takes up Shahin Portofeh's story as he hides himself underneath a lorry in a car park at a Greek port.

"Any cars parked in that car park means they are going to Italy. So when I got myself into the car park I hid myself under the axle [of a lorry] in a metal box used for storing equipment.

"The box was tiny - it felt like I was inside a coffin.

Shahin Portofeh
Shahin Portofeh is now living in Manchester
"After a few seconds I find [the lorry] has gone inside the ferry, it's gone on board.

"I was waiting, waiting, just to see what is going to happen. It was really cold and painful laying down, not moving, not making any noise, sounds in case any ferry staff see or hear me.

"The lorry drove off the ferry but I cannot get out (of the box) unless it is parked.

"I wait for everything to settle down then I get out of the box and I find by the signs and writing that I am in Italy."

No ticket

In Italy, penniless and starving, Shahin, starts sneaking on board trains in his quest to reach the UK.

"No money - nothing at all. I can't buy a ticket.

"I went to the train station to see if there are any trains to Rome.

"So I got on a train - when I saw the ticket conductor coming I hide myself inside the toilets so he won't see me.

"But sometimes I got caught without a ticket and they kicked me out of the train.

"I was going to France but when I got the train by the border between France and Italy by the checkpoint, [the police] got me.

Shahin Portofeh

"When I was captured they took my fingerprints there they gave me a piece of paper, which says I have to leave Italy as soon as possible.

"And I say: 'I am an asylum seeker, I was in England' and tell them the whole of my story.

"They tell me: 'You can't apply in this country you have to go back to England or your own country.'

"They told me to wait... for another train and go back to Milan.

"They left me in the train station - and I walked out.

"I found a minibus that took people from the villages of Italy to the villages of France.

"That cost 15 euros. But I had absolutely no money so I begged other people, telling that I had nothing, had lost everything.

It took me 50 minutes to swim the distance - if any ferry was moving, it could have crushed me
Shahin Portofeh

"I know it sounds awful but I had to do this to get some money.

"When I got that minibus it went from village to village - there was no checks of passports or anything like that.

"When I got to the French side I went to a train station and did the same thing again - got on board without a ticket and eventually I arrived in Paris.

"I slept on the streets for two days. I had no food, nothing just begging people - it was the only way I could survive.

"During that time I keep trying to get on a train but they catch and forced me outside time and again, but eventually I did manage to sneak on a train.

Generic - two asylum seekers in Calais

"I hid in the toilet and I got to Calais, which is on the coast facing Dover."

Apparently impossible to steal on board a ferry to England from Calais, Mr Portofeh found a way fraught with danger.

"The only chance to get into the UK was the port where the ferries go from but there it is impossible to get into the car park.

"There is a big high fence, dogs, security, everything - there isn't anyway to get inside the port from there but on the other side of the port there is a big park.

"I thought I could swim from the park into the portside - there isn't any security, they don't check that side of the port.

"I think they didn't realise someone could swim into the port.

Looking through gaps on the ferry door can see that France is moving away - I was really happy
Shahin Portofeh

"Around midnight in absolute dark... I remove all my clothes, put them inside a few bins bags to waterproof them so they do not get wet and I jump into the sea to swim inside the port.

"That was really highly risky because at any time a ferry might come, moving away or arriving in the port.

"It took me 50 minutes to swim the distance.

"When I got to the other side I easily got into the car park I see the ferry doors are open so I just jumped inside and hide myself.

"The ferry was loading up with lorries and cars and then the ferry moved.

"I jumped down from my hiding place and looking through gaps on the ferry door can see that France is moving away - I was really happy.

Kissed ground

"I found a coach and opened the hatch underneath where the suitcases and luggage are stored.

"After two hours, something like that, we got to the England side and the coaches drives off.

"I don't know where it is going to - after an hour and a half the coach stopped.

"I can hear people's feet walking inside the coach. I know that means it's parked at services and people are getting off.

All asylum application and representations are carefully considered on their individual circumstances
Border and Immigration Agency statement
"I was ready if someone opened the door (of the compartment), ready to jump away and run and someone did open the door and I just ran away.

"When I was 150 yards away, something like that I just lay on the floor and kissed the ground and say I am absolutely safe now.

"There was nothing to worry about any more."

Mr Portofeh made a second application for asylum and was granted leave to remain in Britain for five years. He has since settled in Manchester.

Defending its decision to deport Mr Portofeh to Iran in 2004, where he was wanted by the authorities for having had a gay relationship, the Border and Immigration Agency issued the following statement.

"All asylum application and representations are carefully considered on their individual circumstances taking account of all the evidence available at the time including regularly updating country reports.

"We recognise circumstances can change significantly over time such as changes in the situation of the county of origin or an applicants own personal circumstances or the substance and significance of the evidence they put forward.

"Such changes may rightly result in different decision being reached at different times."




SEE ALSO
An asylum seeker's escape: part two
18 Jul 07 |  Coventry/Warwickshire
'How I escaped from torture in Iran'
16 Jul 07 |  Coventry/Warwickshire
Asylum seeker loses fight to stay
20 Jul 04 |  Coventry/Warwickshire
Asylum seeker ends deportation protest
11 Jul 03 |  West Midlands
Asylum seeker sews up eyes
08 Jul 03 |  West Midlands

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