Gary Linekar has given me food for thought. He has signed up to house a refugee in his Surrey mansion and is reportedly due to welcome his guest in a few weeks’ time. Once we are through this epidemic – and please no comments that we will never be through as I might just slit my throat – I too am thinking about giving a room to a refugee. If I have managed so far without the income from a lodger perhaps a better use for our spare room would be to give a home to a refugee. Perhaps not a child because of the responsibility or a male because of the different gender attitudes toward women that might need to be overcome, but certainly a female refugee.
I love it that Sara Nathan says in an article in The Independent that if she was to give one piece of advice to Lineker it would be to start off by offering a cup of tea. So, English!
“We are talking about people who have fled war or persecution,” she says. “Just somebody being welcoming is a huge thing. A cup of tea can mean the world.”
She went on to say that she and husband Malcolm Singer have hosted 24 such guests at their London house since they first founded the charity https://www.refugeesathome.org/ in 2015. I shall be getting in contact with them next year.
You will probably be reading a lot more about refugees on my post as I have started volunteering for the Separated Child Foundation https://separatedchild.org/ obviously working from home, to help them expand their profile. As you know from previous posts, I am quite passionate about the plight of refugees. My grandparents arrived as refugees and quite frankly who knows what might happen in the future. We too might just be one step away from becoming displaced. I am always mindful of – ‘there but for the grace of….’
These children left their homes voluntarily or involuntarily, alone or perhaps with their parents or care givers and arrived in Europe as refugees, asylum-seekers, economic migrants or trafficked persons. They may suffer or be at risk from suffering exploitation, abuse, neglect or violence
The Separated Child Foundation offers emotional, social, financial and physical support to separated children and young people in Britain up to the age of 21. They also offer a whole host of other activities. It is hard to imagine what it must be like to arrive in a strange country – alone – probably with little or no English. Traumatised by their experiences and having absolutely nothing.
Take Kamran from Afghanistan. He is just one of the many child refugees that the Separated Child foundation has helped. His survival is remarkable. His account of his journey highlights many of the issues around the age assessment of children who are seeking asylum in the UK. Although he was only a child, the authorities treated Kamron as an adult, detained him for long periods and very nearly deported him, before they finally recognised him as a minor. I am retelling part of his story here.
“My name is Kamran Foladi. I am from Afghanistan and was born in Ghazni Province in Afghanistan. I was only 8 years old when I lost my entire family. Only I and my younger brother survived as we were outside the house. One of my father’s friends took me and my brother to Iran to a place called Neriz. He took us to stay at a stone factory where between 25 and 30 people worked and each factory had a cook…….
“People in the factory talked about there being better conditions in Europe and better human rights. They advised me to work hard and make money to get out of Iran and go to Europe as it was not safe anymore and people from Afghanistan were being deported back to Afghanistan…….
“The factory was located far from the city and a man called Hajji Kazim had a shop here and he brought food ……. He was a nice trustworthy person and every month; I gave him all the money I had saved for safekeeping. He used this money to arrange for me and my brother to come to Europe.
“We travelled through to Tehran then got on a coach and then a van to a little village near the border of Turkey. At night we walked for 24 hours across mountains and snow in Turkey. There were lots of caves in the mountains and there were about 45 to 50 people travelling together. We all stayed in the caves for two days. After two nights and two days, we climbed down, and a van arrived. 25 people got on the van, which took us to a house in the city…….
“Afterwards, the lorry was packed full of people and some people were being beaten to sit down and asked not to move. We travelled for about four and half hours then we started walking again for about four and a half hours and we crossed another mountain. It was very cold, and it was snowing. We got another lorry at the foot of the mountain. ……..There were no proper roads and the lorry got stuck in the mud. In one place, we had to all push the lorry out. The roads were so bad that we nearly overturned. We travelled on this lorry for two days and two nights. We were so happy and excited thinking that any minute we will be there now. But it took so long. This lorry took us to Istanbul. From here, we travelled through Greece, then Italy (Rome), then France
“When we got to France, we decided between ourselves that my brother would go first and swim across to the port in Calais as we had no money to pay. The water was very deep, and we were standing watching him as he swam across. A ferry came from the other side and went over him and then he disappeared. I watched this happen and started screaming and shouting. I wanted to throw myself in the water too; I wanted to save my brother. The other Afghans held me and stopped me throwing myself in the water. I was unconscious and when I came around in the morning I was asking again for my brother. They lied to me that they had told the police, and no one had found him. They were lying because they were scared. I felt so sad and empty and didn’t know what to do. They advised me to continue travelling to the UK and not to tell anyone about my brother as I would be blamed because he was younger than me and I did not look after him. I then reached London at about five in the morning.”
I put it to these far-right protesters who marched on Dover last week chanting “We want our country back” and singing Rule, Britannia! How would you feel if your parents had been butchered and you had to flee from your beloved Britannia? And no one would take you in!
I rest my case. I know this has been a bit preachy, but I am just flexing my muscles in preparation for this new task I have taken on.
“Let’s be careful out there”