Imagine going about your daily life as a typical teen, either on your way to school, college or work and in an instant your world is literally turned upside down. Your home in pieces, your dreams shattered and your family gone. Becoming a doctor, mechanic or lawyer is but a distant memory, now it’s about survival, to eat, find shelter, be safe, to simply live.
Using up the first of your nine lives you get bundled onto the back of a pick-up truck which takes you to the border, narrowly evading the bombs and gun fighting. You get into the neighbouring country, Turkey, and now it’s a walk, everything you own on your back, 12 hours a day, for nearly three days, following only train tracks for direction. You take shelter at the harbour, hiding behind shipping containers. It’s wet and cold in the nights. Time to use up another life, you make a dash for it as you see a boat moor up, you push through and jump in. In a flash, you feel yourself move off leaving the harbour lights behind. Right now, it is pitch black, you’re alone, cold, scared and on the water. Right now, you are still a 14 or 15-year-old child with no parent or guardian to keep you safe. The man skippering the boat hands you a life jacket, ripped, used by another child who may or may not have made it. Keep your head down, stay low and keep quiet. The waves crash against the side, lifting and dropping the boat, you hang on. You see the red lights of another vessel, but it’s the authorities. Rather than help, you hear stories of how they are capsizing refugee boats on purpose. You hear the sound of the water across the sand and feel the bump.
You made it. You walk to your new home, full of hope and sense of achievement, to realise it is the Moria Refugee camp, built for 3,000 people, currently housing 8,000. The first thing you sense is the smell. The stench of sewage, uncollected refuse, and burning fires. You can hear babies crying, in fact, you can their mothers crying too. Time passes and you are once again in survival mode. You see the daily fights, segregation, lack of basic human rights. A few of you decide that your best chance is to get onto the mainland and you go through Europe: Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Austria, Italy and then France. You know that the Calais jungle had been razed to the ground by the French Government and that the Grand-Synthe in Dunkirk refugee camp is where you should go. You reach the camp, in the North of France, to find makeshift, wooden huts. Day to day struggles include violence, trafficking, and illness. To be sexually exploited in order to pay for basics or that slim chance of becoming a stowaway. One day, French police swoop in to detain migrants in their reception centres. You run, run as fast as you can leaving everything behind. You don’t trust anyone, especially those wearing uniform. You don’t know whether you will be beaten up or killed. You feel the only chance at life you will get is in the Great Britain. They must call it that for a reason, right? You sit and scope the trucks as they get in the queue to board the ferries and make a dash for it. You’re on.
When you get to the UK, the Border Agency are out with sniffer dogs, detectors and teams of officers. They find you, barely breathing, stuck between two heavy boxes. Your’e weak, in and out of consciousness, you can’t stand and they carry you out to the van, where you are seen to by a paramedic. You are taken to the Immigration Removal Centre in Dover, where you claim Asylum. The centre is pretty much a prison, when you go outside, you can see barbed wire everywhere. But weirdly, you feel safe, safe from traffickers, safe from violence and safe from bombs.
In time, your asylum claim is accepted. You are placed with a foster family who show you lots of love and care. You get a place in the local school and make some friends and some not so friendly. You get the name-calling, bullying and isolation. But you are beginning to Arise, once again. You show resilience and become more confident. Your mentor helps build your skills, trusts your abilities and you dare to dream again. Doctor, Mechanic, Lawyer.
by Kammy Siddique