“ARMY” by the last dictator in Europe on the trail of migrants from Belarus, Sandar Ahmed has finally reached the shores of the Channel.
An unwitting pawn in a deadly geopolitical game, the Iraqi was lured to the Eastern European nation on a tourist visa before being pushed across the EU border in a sinister “disaster”. hybrid war ”.
Now hoping to board a truck to Britain, Sandar, 32, told me: “Belarusian soldiers guided us across the border to Poland, but they were using us as political weapons.
A pitiful human chess piece played by the despot Alexander Lukashenko, Sandar fled violence in Iraq where, despite his business studies, he could not find a job.
Speaking after the vast Grande-Synthe migrant camp where he lived was raided by French cops, he revealed: “I arrived in Belarus legally on a tourist visa.
“Myself and other migrants were then taken to the border by minibus and shown where to cross the Bug River in Poland.
“We were helped by the Belarusian police and army. They stole money and cell phones from some people.
It’s a new headache for Home Secretary Priti Patel, who admitted this week Britain was in the throes of an EU-fueled “mass migration crisis”.
Increasingly frustrated, she added: “Let us not forget that the real problem is that the EU has no border protection.
Indeed, Sandar was far from the only migrant from the French coast to arrive via Belarus, a 1,000-mile journey that passes through Poland and Germany.
“No food or water”
I found Syrian Ahmad Houija – a farmer from the former capital of the Islamic State Raqqa – wandering the roads sadly near the Calais ferry terminus.
Through a wheezing cough, the father, who arrived here a month ago, said: “Belarus was very, very bad. There was no food or water.
“The Polish border guards told me: ‘Go back to [Belarus capital] Minsk. ‘ During the night, I cut the fence and ran through.
Today Ahmad, 36, who wants to join his two sisters living in Glasgow, revealed: “I have spent the past seven years in Lebanon after escaping the war in Syria. My family is still there.
“I had four children, but the little one died. I just want them to be able to go to school.
Ahmad had flown from Lebanon to Minsk after the Lukashenko regime issued tourist visas to people across the Middle East.
Quoted £ 3,700 for a place in a dilapidated dinghy to the British shores, he ran out of money after spending nearly £ 7,500 to reach Calais.
This week Ahmad was a spectator in some of the most chaotic scenes I have witnessed in two decades of reporting on the French coast.
Despite a £ 54million payment to France from British taxpayers’ money and increasingly strict diplomacy from the Home Secretary’s megaphones, the well-oiled smuggling networks were at full speed.
On Tuesday, French police orchestrated a dawn raid on the squalid “New Jungle” camp in Grande-Synthe, on the outskirts of Dunkirk.
It housed around 1,500 migrants and was infested with armed smugglers.
The look of France was marred somewhat by events that took place 45 miles along the coast.
At dawn, dozens of migrants carrying a giant black inflatable loaded from the sand dunes on the beach near Wimereux straight to a waiting ITV News film crew.
Leaving French soil for the last time, a cheerful-looking migrant revealed that he had spent “seven years in France – five years in prison”.
Next, ITV reporter Dan Rivers calmly reported on camera as the dinghy swayed in the waves without a police officer in sight.
The Sun later obtained footage of three exhausted migrants who had crossed the Channel in a kayak randomly that morning. It is not known if they made it to Britain.
Decathlon sports shops around Calais – including one in Grande-Synthe – have banned the sale of small boats for fear that they will end up being used to cross to Britain.
In the past three weeks, at least ten men have died trying to cross the Channel, including two in kayaks, according to The Times newspaper.
On Monday, a Kawasaki jet ski from the 1990s – believed to have been flown by migrants – even arrived in British waters.
Amid the chaos, more than 24,000 migrants have arrived by small boat this year, almost triple the total of 8,420 last year.
Last week, 1,185 crossed the Channel in a single day – but it emerged on Wednesday that only five migrants had been returned to Europe this year.
Immigration Minister Tom Pursglove admitted the situation was “totally unacceptable”.
This increases the pressure on Ms Patel – seen by some as a potential Conservative leader – who allowed herself this week to become hostage to fortune by promising to stop “100%” canoe crossings.
Near the old Jungle site near Calais, I met a group of middle-class Iranians discussing the Home Secretary’s migration policy by the side of a road.
The well-heeled party, comprising a financial analyst, a pastry chef, and a vendor of medical supplies, say they are Christian converts fleeing persecution.
Some have used Grants whiskey and Coke in paper cups to toast after fleeing the suffocating life in Ayatollah country via Greece.
Almost 30% of migrants crossing the Channel come from Iran, more than any other nationality.
“We want to work”
Carpenter Milad Koozehgari, 29, said: “We had good jobs in Iran, we are not poor people. We just want religious freedom.
“My advice to Priti Patel is not to pay the French to stop us, but rather to charge us for visas to come to your country. We want to work.
Further up the coast, migrants have been living for six months in the ruined industrial complex of Grande-Synthe.
On Tuesday, dozens were loaded onto buses and taken to shelters in other locations. Cops arrested 13 suspected smugglers during the raid.
Left behind was a wasteland of piled up trash, abandoned tents and smoldering fires.
Evictions from migrant camps in Calais and Dunkirk have taken place regularly since the destruction of the original Jungle near Calais in 2016.
Many migrants in Grande-Synthe slipped through the police cordon and merged into the surrounding scrubland.
Still drenched from their failed attempt to cross the English Channel, Iraqi Kurds Rawand, 27, and Awez, 24, returned to the remains of the camp they once called home, still dressed in fluorescent life jackets.
Shivering with spasms, Rawand said to me: “We had been at sea for five hours and were 2 km from English waters when our engine broke. We had to be rescued by the French coast guard.
They were eventually allowed to cross the cordon by the cops to pick up the litter piled up for their property.
A day later, the migrants again pitched tents in swampy fields and thick woods around the New Jungle site littered with garbage.
Among them was an Iraqi Kurdish harem, 21, another who had followed the trail of Belarusian migrants after flying via Dubai to Minsk.
Pointing to the destroyed tents, discarded clothes and rotten chopsticks, he said, “We lived here like monkeys.
An accounting student who left Iraq because he was “unable to find a suitable job,” Harem recounted how corrupt Polish border guards stole him 1,050 euros in exchange for letting him into the country .
Now he has no more money for his trip to Britain, saying ‘I don’t know how I’m going to get there’.
The Rzgar family, led by mum Kazhal, have moved their tent back to the field next to the wreckage of the New Jungle.
“Our mom is afraid”
Hoping to join their family in Birmingham, the 46-year-old woman and her four children – from Darbandikhan, Iraqi Kurdistan – traveled by boat from Turkey to Italy before arriving at the camp earlier this month.
The youngest daughter Hasty, seven, apparently oblivious to the misery around her, laughed as she hitchhiked on a supermarket cart stacked with their blankets.
Her eldest daughter, an art student, Hadya, 22, said: “In Iraq we don’t have any money. We just want a good life.
Brother Mubin, 16, said, “Mom is afraid of the boat trip and we don’t have the money. It’s 2,500 euros each. We will have to borrow it.
On Thursday, French cops again raided the remains of the camp. Scruffy migrant families – their blankets, tents and other meager personal effects stuffed into carts – slipped in and out of traffic on the busy D601.
The tyrant Lukashenko, who claimed victory in the rigged 2020 presidential election, has unleashed migrant chaos in retaliation for rounds of EU sanctions.
Last week some 4,000 people looking for a better life were cajoled by Minsk strongman’s henchmen on Poland’s fortified border.
They were greeted by 15,000 Polish soldiers and border guards, trapping families in icy and hellish limbo.
Sending me videos of the miserable scenes this week, Iraqi Mahamad Sexo, 35, said: “We are stuck here, there are a lot of children with us.”
The crisis reached its boiling point on Tuesday, with Polish forces using tear gas and water cannons to push back migrants trying to cross the border.
Belarus later eased tensions – at least for now – by providing shelter in a giant warehouse for a thousand people trapped at the border.
Back in Grande-Synthe, Sandar searches for a place to sleep for the night as the temperature drops.
The shot dead Iraqi said: “My advice to other migrants is never to cross Belarus. It is the wrong road to reach your dream.