“We had to come on a boat”
This is Mina. She’s a seven-year-old Kurdish refugee from Iraq, super-bright, absolutely bursting with life, and one of the bravest little girls I’ve ever known.
I met her at a clothes distribution. She was tugging at my sleeve to show me her school badge and tell me how much she loved her new English school. She likes drawing and painting best, she said, but she gets good marks “in most things.” “I’ll be there tomorrow, ” she said. “I can’t wait.”
She chattered away about all sorts – favourite colour (pink), her new shiny shoes, how her dad built PCs – but then suddenly she mentioned something that made me catch my breath.
“We had to come on a boat,” she said. “I was scared because I didn’t like it, but my mum and dad held my hand.
“Water was coming in and we thought we would drown and I was very scared. But my sister phoned to someone and officers came and they helped us. It was an officer who came.
“When we got to the land I was shaking because I was scared. Another officer came and they wanted to take us in jail. But it was all right.”
She beamed at me, and I didn’t know what to say. Two minutes ago I’d been talking to a little kid about pink jackets; now I was talking to an amazing human who’d obviously been through an experience that would terrify most adults. And yet here she was, back to telling me about school, and the three languages she speaks.
Mina is staying in a hotel with her mum, dad and two sisters. I met them all that day, and they were so generous and friendly they seemed to warm up a chilly winter day. Mina’s mum and dad were happy to let Mina appear here, by the way – you get the distinct feeling that when Mina puts her mind to something, it’s a good idea not to get in the way.
I was bowled over by Mina and her brilliant, brave, hard-working family, all of them so determined to make a success of being in a new community, and so appreciative of the chance to build new lives. They show up just how little today’s nonsense from the Government has to do with reality.
I imagine most school or workplace in the country would welcome them with open arms. In 20 years’ time, I fully expect to find Mina running one of them!
If we gave refugees like Mina and her family safe passage they would be spared the ordeal of crossing the channel on a small boat, it would put the people smugglers out of business and there would be no need for cruel policies like the Illegal Migration Bill published by the Government today.
We can be a fairer and compassionate nation. Please write to your MP asking them to support #SafePassage: care4calais.org/safepassage/