Meet Gorkem, whose daughter dreams of a bright future
Gorkem is teaching his children English so they will be well equipped for a future in the UK. He is proud that Sevin, his daughter, is learning so fast.
“Sometimes she even asks me questions or says things in English,” he says, “I just hope that my children will be fine and have good jobs when they grow up. She says that she wants to be a teacher or a police officer. She loves police officers.”
We are standing talking on one of Dunkirk’s abandoned industrial estates, where Gorkem, a Kurdish Iraqi, lives with his wife and children.
Slashed tents lie torn and broken against wire fencing and the corners of buildings pile high with plastic and coke cans, swept in by the chilly spring breeze. Flames leap high over the edges of charred metal barrels dotted across the gravelled plain. Echoing around this concrete auditorium, children’s laughter rings out.
Gorkem and his family spent seven days at sea on their way here. Water repeatedly flooded their small boat and people had to constantly help bailing it out, a terrifying experience with small children, completely exposed to the forces of nature.
He says, “My life used to be so beautiful in Iraq. I had a job, I had money, I had a house. My life was so beautiful but somebody had to make trouble for us. I wish I could live back home, you know? But if I stayed, they would have killed me.
“The situation in Iraq is very bad now, very bad. There are terrorist groups that go around killing people. They even kill children.”
It is hard for someone like me, raised in West London, to understand what it’s like to fear for your life.
I ask Gorkem if there were ever moments he felt his life was on the line. He says: “Of course. Yes, of course. This is especially hard because I have a very small child and I want to make a nice life for her and my family.
“We hate not being able to live back home in Iraq any more. My parents, my brother, my friends are still living there and everybody wants to live with their family, right? Being away from them is hard.”
I wonder why some people choose to stay in Iraq and he tells me: “Some people don’t have the money, you know? The Iraqi government has stopped all support for Kurdish people (around 15-20% of the Iraqi population). Now it’s very bad because Kurdish people have no support and very little money. Lots of people don’t come to Europe because they just don’t have the money. I know many people back home who don’t even have money to buy food, but in Europe we need money to buy food, clothes, and shoes. Everything.”
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