As the journeys of young refugees continue beyond their time in Calais, we want to share some experiences of the young people we often support, when making a new home for themselves in the UK.
Many of the children arrive with complex needs, trauma and questions. It’s important to understand that their stuggles do not end once they are on this side of the border. In this short story below, we tell you about ‘N’, a young man very close to our hearts, with a brave and important to story to tell.
One Afghan boy we’ve supported, now 14, arrived in the jungle completely alone, with noticeable injuries. He had been beaten up by the military police (CRS), which is sadly a common form of child abuse that we saw in Calais. For confidentiality reasons, we will refer to him as N. Our lead nurse, Sarah, referred N to our young person’s safe space that we had just set up and we then referred him to a legal team to be assessed for Dublin III (family reunification). We hadn’t really heard of many children having much luck with this, but N said he had an uncle in the UK, so it was still worth a shot. All N knew was his uncle’s name and that he was in London, so his case could not progress. He was in the jungle for a further 8 months.
N is an incredibly kind, resilient and hilariously funny young man. It was hard to stomach the fact that he was trying to get into lorries and onto trains at night, alone, risking his life every day. Or the fact that every night he would sleep in just a tent in a dangerous and open refugee camp where he could easily be preyed on. He would come to see us every week and I can’t count how many injuries he had over that period that we would have recorded with Medicin Sans Frontier (medics in the jungle) or at the hospital. We continuously tried to persuade him to consider France for asylum as we thought he would be killed. We decided to monitor him on a daily basis as we were concerned about who he was exposed to, as there were a lot of dangerous gangs exploiting refugees in Calais. We could see that he was losing hope and taking more and more risks, as well as feeling that he had no point in living if his life was in the jungle.
Hope for N
We monitored most of our at-risk children, as experienced members of our youth team volunteered as Safe Adults, which meant regular telephone contact and being on call every day. At this point, there was a movement with some of the children’s legal cases and we started to see young people being reunited with family. This was a huge relief! We eventually located his uncle and I asked for him to be assessed by Social Services to make sure he was able to look after him and that he was a safe choice, as N had never met him. They apologised for the fact that they could not help as they did not have the capacity, nor was it a matter that they could get involved in. With the help of an independent social worker in Brighton, I set off to London and met with his uncle. We wanted to make sure paper work was done swiftly, so meeting him also meant that I could hand deliver the documents to the lawyers.
Hope for a happy ending
The day we celebrated our charity status was also the one year anniversary of N getting to the UK. We never thought that day would happen. N, like other children who have experienced horrendous traumas, has a long way to go before we can say this is a happy ending. Like most of our children, he suffers night terrors, flashbacks and other symptoms which can be linked to PTSD. He has a long wait until he has his asylum outcome. He worries about his family, some he fears may be dead. But what we can say for now is here in the UK he is safe from harm. We have the privilege of still working with this inspiring young man on a weekly basis in his school and will continue to until he no longer needs us. With regular deportations back to Afghanistan from the UK and lots of young people just like N being denied asylum, we know that that our work is very far from over.
You can help us to continue to support N and other refugees that have been through similar experiences by donating here. Thank you!