It’s National Refugee Week and there are over 60 million people around the world who are still displaced from their homes due to war, persecution, poverty and terror. Help Refugees want to take this time to remember that each of those 60 million is an individual and unique human being equally deserving of our compassion and support, and who should never be considered or dismissed as just another number.
Each day this week we will be sharing a personal story from just one of the millions of refugees in the world. Please do take the time to read and share their and think about how you can join us to help alleviate their suffering.
Today we tell the story of Ahmed.
Ahmed is 10 years old and an unaccompanied minor. He is from Afghanistan.
Ahmed says he travelled to France with people smugglers – he was with a large group. In Iran he was put in a boot with other people. He did not want to go in. He felt claustrophobic and was frightened. They hit him and made him get in. In Iran, near the border with Turkey, they were attacked by robbers who took everything. Seven people were shot dead. They were forced to walk huge distances for many, many hours. Ahmed says it took eight attempts to cross over into Bulgaria. In Bulgaria the police were fighting them. Ahmed says he was scared about being beaten. He says in Serbia they were inside a small van with 35 people and “it was very difficult”. Ahmed says he was shot at in Hungary by the police again. He said it was very difficult to get food and water and he was often hungry. The smugglers left him in Italy, he made the rest of the journey with other people out of the group. It took about three months.
Ahmed left Afghanistan because it was unsafe. “I am scared of bombs so I run.”
Ahmed’s father was killed by bomb. His mother and uncle were worried about the increasing dangers. His mother sold some land to pay smugglers.
Ahmed talks about not being able to sleep. He attempts to get to the UK most nights. He talks about getting hurt when he is ‘andakh’ (the word used in the camp for trying to get to the UK), falling over in the dark, being chased by the police and by dogs. Being sprayed with CS gas and being pushed around by the police. He talks about always being dirty and often comes home wet and has nothing to change into. Ahmed told me he was scared at night time in the Jungle because he sees people drinking and acting “crazy”. He has witnessed many fights and people getting injured. After the last eviction we gave Ahmed a caravan. There have been a number of incidents where Ahmed has had his windows smashed and his belongings stolen.
Ahmed is one of the youngest unaccompanied children in Calais Jungle. He has been there for over six months. Ahmed has not engaged with many volunteers and spends his time within the Afghan community. He does not take part in activities in the camp. Ahmed says he will not claim asylum in France. He continues to attempt to get to the UK by going to the local ‘lorry parks’ and breaking in and hiding, he never knows if the lorry is definitely going to the UK and sometimes they wait many hours for the lorry to move and many children report ending up in Paris or other cities.
(There have been many reports of refugees hiding in refrigerated lorries and running out of oxygen.)
A number of children report ‘trying’ on the ‘autobaan’. Refugees slow the traffic down by standing in the road, which enables others to open the back and get in. There have been a number of serious injuries and deaths on the roads.
Ahmed is a very funny and intelligent boy. Over the months he has started to show signs of depression and exhaustion and has become quieter and more withdrawn even amongst his community. A number of Afghan men have reported that they are worried about him. I have stayed with Ahmed in his caravan when I have been concerned about him, and he has talked to me about his feelings. He is desperate to leave the Jungle, and wants to be in the UK – he talks about ‘no chance’. He does not know what to do and has cried about it. I am very concerned about his emotional wellbeing.
Ahmed does not mix well with his peers and is quite isolated.
Ahmed has obvious trouble talking about the situation at home, he becomes quite agitated and withdrawn.
Ahmed says he wants to go to the UK and he wants to be safe. He talks about having a ‘good home’ and being able to play cricket. Ahmed says he would like to go to school. He says he wants to live in Birmingham, as he has been told many Afghans go there.
Ahmed wants to have contact with his friend Jamil. He also mentions being near to his friends from the Jungle.
Ahmed has also said he wants to remain in contact with Liz.*
Ahmed is very vulnerable and there are hundreds of unaccompanied minors – each with their own tale of unimaginable hardship – in the Calais camp. Every one of these children has the potential to become whatever they dream of being, if we only give them the chance. Please visit https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/helprefugees to donate to help children just like them.
*Liz Clegg runs the Unofficial Women and Children’s Centre and has been a huge advocate and source of love and support for the unaccompanied minors in the camp. We are very proud to support her in her work.
We would not be able to do our work without your support and kindness. Many of the refugees we help are fleeing the conflict zones of Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Others are trying to escape political oppression in countries like Eritrea. All are human beings like us. As well as providing immediate physical assistance, we want to help refugees maintain their dignity.
Please click through if you would like to find out more about our work in Calais, Dunkirk, Lesvos, Samos, Idomeni and other locations. If you would like to know how you can help refugees, please check out our Get Involved section where you can find out how to fundraise for us and how to make a donation. Thank you!