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Migrant who came to UK across Channel on dinghy 'feels like a king' in luxury hotel

NewsMigrant who came to UK across Channel on dinghy 'feels like a king' in luxury hotel

Young migrant Amin Khan is staying at lavish hotel

Young migrant Amin Khan is staying at lavish hotel (Image: Chris Neill)

A young migrant who crossed the channel in a small boat ten days ago says he is “amazed” at being housed in the luxury of a four-star country house hotel.

Amin Khan, 20, who was living rough in Calais until two weeks ago was astonished at the lavish accommodation provided for him in the UK.

He is one of more than 100 asylum seekers staying at the Macdonald Kilhey Court in Standish, near Wigan courtesy of the British taxpayer.

The hotel, which stands in 10 acres of magnificent grounds overlooking three lakes, has been leased by the government and is being temporarily operated by Serco.

Known locally as Wigan’s “plushest” hotel it is part of the reason the UK is spending £8million a day on accommodation for refugees.

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The Macdonald Kilhey Court in Standish, near Wigan

The Macdonald Kilhey Court in Standish, near Wigan (Image: Macdonald Kilhey Court)

Amin, a genuine asylum seeker fleeing death at the hands of the Taliban in Kunar, Afghanistan said he expected much more basic accommodation.

He had not heard of the Bibby Stockholm barge in Dorset but on having it described to him said he would “of course” have been happy to live aboard it.

He explained: “All I hope for is somewhere safe. Somewhere warm and dry, yes, and clean, but mostly safe. Two weeks ago I was living in the bushes in Calais. This was not safe. When I got to the hotel I could not believe it. I was so happy, it really amazed me.

“This hotel has so much luxury. It has much more than I expected. It is safe and warm and comfortable. It made me feel like a king.

“The food is very good, breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is tea and coffee, mango juice and other juices. It is in a British style but it is all halal because almost everyone in the hotel is a muslim.

“I did not know there was a swimming pool or a gym. We are not allowed to use them. I would not expect to use them. It is no problem.”

He described conditions inside the hotel which has 62 rooms and five suites: “It is almost full. Each room is shared by two people. There are so many here, more than one hundred.”

Amin fled Afghanistan in August 2021 after the Taliban took control of the country and due to a dispute with his family, burned down their business and kidnapped his uncle.

Told that he would be next because he had worked for his uncle, he left immediately for Pakistan and over the next two years walked most of the 4750 miles to Calais.

Arriving penniless in Northern France six weeks ago it took him two attempts at jumping onto a migrant boat at the last minute before he succeeded.

Amin Khan on migrant boat

Amin Khan on migrant boat (Image: Amin Khan)

The plan meant he did not have to pay people smugglers up to £3,000 for the trip but he risked a vicious beating at their hands if caught trying to cadge a free ride.

At 5am on September 12, he spotted a migrant group heading to the beach immediately to the East of Calais’ port terminal. They were on foot, he tagged along.

He said: “I followed through the sand dunes where they got to a boat on the beach. It was still dark. They started pumping it up. I grabbed a pump and started to help, everyone thought I had paid and was part of the group so I just kept busy and helped as much as I could.

“We carried the boat down to the water and there were no police. We were stuck on the beach for 45 minutes because the engine would not start. All we saw were two people. One was a fisherman going home and the other was walking a dog.

“At last the engine started and we set off but I asked if the authorities knew about us? If they don’t know, we could sink and drown, no-one would rescue us, but if they know they will save us.

50-60 migrants in a boat

50-60 migrants in a boat (Image: Amin Khan)

“So I called the French coastguard on my phone and said we were 50-60 migrants in a boat heading for England from Calais. A French patrol boat came and found us. They did not stop us they just followed us in case we sank. After three hours we were about halfway across and we saw the British coastguard ship. We all cheered. We had made it.”

Amin’s group of migrants were taken aboard and brought ashore at Dover for processing.

Over the next few days, his fingerprints were taken and a detailed interview with an immigration officer conducted.

He was transferred to a hotel in Luton for three nights before being transported by bus to Kilhey Court.

Amin first spoke to the Daily Express on September 8 during our investigation into the drunken partying of the French Riot police in Calais, while being paid by the UK taxpayer, to prevent small boat crossings such as his.

Amin refused to accept any benefit from the Daily Express for telling his story and said “I just want people to know the reality.”

He said: “I did not want to come here. I want to be with my family in Afghanistan. it is my home. It is where my best people are.

“But if I go there I lose my life. Now, my family do not know where I am but they can hope I am alive. If the Taliban take me my family knows I am dead. This is better. I walked first from Pakistan, through Iran to Turkey and I stopped there for more than a year.

“I was waiting because I thought the Taliban government would collapse and I could go back to my family. But they just got stronger. Then Turkey tried to deport me to Afghanistan so I had to leave. I walked trough Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Italy, Switzerland and France.

“There was no point to claim asylum in France because they would deport me to Bulgaria, the first country I came to in the EU. Bulgaria hates migrant people. They would just refuse me asylum and the police beat you as soon as they see you to make you leave.

Inside Wigan Hotel

Inside Wigan Hotel (Image: Macdonald Kilhey Court )

“I had to come to the UK. It is the best country. Nowhere since I left Afghanistan has anyone in any country asked me if I am OK, if I am sick, if I am hungry, except the UK. They are the best people. I thank them from my heart.”

Notwithstanding Amin’s heartfelt gratitude, the decision to house asylum seekers at Kilhey Court has caused huge anger locally with 100 protestors demonstrating against the decision at Wigan Town Hall.

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy has also written to Home Secretary Suella Braverman calling on her to cancel the arrangement calling it “completely unacceptable”.

A spokesperson for local residents’ forum Standish Voice said: “We are shocked and disappointed that a historic hotel in our community is being requisitioned by the Government to provide this type of accommodation.”

Other hotels in the area already house asylum seekers, including up to 200 at the Britannia Almond Brook less than three miles from Kilhey Court.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, objected to the cost of using locations such as Kilhjey Court: “The provision of luxury hotels is a slap in the face for taxpayers facing spiralling bills.

“Safe accommodation is necessary, but the use of such resorts is bound to add to the mounting costs of this crisis.

“Ministers must urgently get to grips with illegal immigration and seek out the most cost-effective arrangements.”

Alp Mehmet, Chairman of Migration Watch UK added: “It comes to something when even asylum claimants are surprised at the comfort in which they are kept.

“They of course also receive a generous weekly allowance, to spend as they choose and the freedom to come and go as they please. How can this not encourage people to make their way here?

Alp Mehmet is the Chairman of Migration Watch UK

Alp Mehmet is the Chairman of Migration Watch UK (Image: )

“Is it any wonder we have already had 24,000 people this year landing on these shores as we run out of space to house new arrivals?”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The number of people arriving in small boats is down compared with last year but we must go further to stop the boats in the first place.

“That is why we are determined, through the Illegal Migration Act, to ensure that anyone arriving in the UK illegally is detained and swiftly removed to their country of origin or a safe third country.

“We are also working hard to reduce the unacceptable use of hotels by moving asylum seekers into alternative, cheaper accommodation, doubling them up in hotel rooms, and clearing the legacy backlog.”

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