He talked about his desire to return there once it was safe
I spent an afternoon in Calais with a young man from Sudan. He was interested in Geography. So, sat on the edge of a stony path, we looked through an atlas together.
I showed him my homeland of Wales. We discussed mountains, the coast, and fields of sheep. (Sheep not ships – we shared a confusing, comical moment before I realised the misunderstanding.). He proudly showed me his homeland on the map, and talked about his desire to return there once it was safe.
He then traced with his finger the route he’d taken, pausing over the Mediterranean – the crossing from Libya. He looked at me, and told me calmly, how there had been hundreds of people on his boat. ‘The boat broke. I was one of five to live.’
What do I say to that? What words are even appropriate? We sat for a minute, my arm around his shoulder. ‘I’m so sorry,’ was my totally inadequate response.
He added, ‘all the people, they drowned.’ After a moment where we just looked at each other, he returned to the map to show me how he continued on his journey. Continued? How can a human mind even start to process that level of trauma?
This young man survived that, but didn’t end up in the embrace of loved ones to start healing. He did not arrive in a country where he could feel safe and cared for. I was speaking to him in a scrap of land where he had nothing, and was abused daily by the authorities. He’d already been there a year.
His name was Yusuf. My nephew’s name is Yusuf. When I shared this with him he smiled, we both agreed it was a great name. But this also brought it a bit closer, made me realise how these people are actually our family. There is no difference between us. When I say they could be you or me, I really mean it. This could be my darling nephew. And that terrifies me.
– written by the wonderful Charlotte Khan
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