“IF I had stayed in Iran, I would have been killed”, is the dark prophecy an Iranian refugee living in Oxfordshire made.

Weeks after two children and two adults drowned when a migrant boat sank off the coast of northern France, a local woman who made the same hazardous journey spoke out on why people are willing to take the risk.

We will call her Maggy but this is not her real name – she will remain anonymous as she is still terrified of attracting the attention of the Iranian regime, who, according to her, have eyes and ears everywhere, including in Oxfordshire.

Maggy rebuilt her life in the UK after she fled possible incarceration and risked her life and the life of her young daughter crossing the English Channel on a small and overcrowded boat back in 1981.

Her treacherous journey began in Iran, from where she and her child travelled to Afghanistan. This took days as they were only able to travel during the night.

Then their trip took them to Pakistan and from there – Turkey.

Up until Pakistan, she travelled dressed in the garments of local gypsies, who blended in easily and navigated the lands well.

Maggy and her daughter then bruised the borders of Crimea and Russia, before travelling on to Germany and then France.

Speaking about the journey she commented: “It took us weeks to get to Germany – it was awful, I still remember it all.

“So does my daughter; she still remembers it all, despite being so young at the time.

“With much suffering along the way and a lot of hiding in mountains and going through many borders, we finally crossed the Channel.

“As soon as we reached British shores, we informed the authorities, so that they could call my husband and he would come down and bring our British passports.”

But this was not Maggy’s first trip to England, instead, this was a return.

During the 1979 mass uprising in Iran which lead to the revolution, the British Embassy advised expats to leave the country as many British and American nationals were considered spies by the revolutionary guards.

Maggy’s husband, who was English, negotiated with the embassy to allow the family to leave the country together.

When they arrived, they settled in Sheffield, near his parents.

Years passed and Maggy missed her family and felt homesick.

Remembering how she made the decision to return, she said: “After a couple of years, I was so homesick that I felt I could go back to Iran to visit my family.

“At the outset we were very worried as to what might happen, but eventually, after much deliberation with my husband, our daughter and I went to Iran.

“At the time our daughter was nearly four years-old.

“We thought everything was going to be okay, as, after all, we had Iranian passports and we had not done anything to be in trouble.”

When Maggy arrived in Iran she discovered that her elder brother, who was a professor of chemistry teaching in one of the universities in Isfahan, was taken to prison for participating in a mass demonstration demanding democracy in the country.

Her father had also disappeared during one of the visits to the prison where Maggy’s brother was kept.

She recalled: “As my father was going to many lawyers, struggling for the release of his son, he too was taken in for interrogation.

“After awhile he was released.

“But in one of his visits to the prison to see my brother, he never came back home alive.

“We have no idea what happened to him, but my family were handed over his body.”

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When Maggy tried to return to the UK, she was detained at the airport in the capital, Tehran.

First, officials took all her jewellery and then questioned her and confiscated her Iranian passport.

When she protested against their behaviour, they pointed out that her four-year-old daughter was not wearing a hijab.

The two were kept in detention and eventually released, but without passports – meaning they could not return to the UK.

Maggy’s family suspected that the regime would come after her, so they got in touch with smugglers and paid them handsomely to get the mother and daughter out of Iran.

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She said that if her family had not been well-off financially and able to pay for the risky trip, she would have been forced to remain in Iran forever – like many of her friends.

Speaking about the the possible repercussions, Maggy said: “In Iran, if anybody is caught talking about human rights, the regime goes after their family.

“If my identity and location is found out, I would be prosecuted as they have exterminators in Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland – in fact, everywhere, including the United Kingdom.

“I was one of the very few lucky ones to escape.”