I took this photo in Calais on a nightly food drop to an area where a large amount of refugee minors sleep outside, with no tents or shelters. On this night, Tesmay was keeping his gloves safe inside his hat, on top of his head, something he found hilarious and very clever. I thought this was great, especially as gloves are one of the items I give out most frequently.
If I were Tesmay, I would be cold and tired, angry and lost, but Tesmay is not any of these things; he is strong and hopeful. He has traveled across seas and deserts to get to where he is. Every day he is at risk of racists attacking him and the people he knows. Every day he hides from the police, with no idea what to expect the next day. Sometimes he calls me at night and I can hear the motorway in the background. It sounds even more dangerous on the phone.
Tesmay is a 16 year old Eritrean refugee, running from lifelong conscription in Eritrea. He first attempted to seek refugee status in Ethiopia but the government was not on his side. He speaks near perfect English and has a brother in Cardiff – the only family he has in Europe – someone he wishes deeply to be reunited with for a sense of familiarity, understanding and hope. Tesmay is currently stuck in Calais, 30 miles off the coast of the UK. Instead of there being a legal way for Tesmay to reach the UK and seek asylum, he has to climb on to lorries, try to get inside them or hide above the wheels. He gets abused by police officers who find him, or ends up in Belgium instead of the UK and has to walk back to Calais and relive the nightmare over again.
Despite all of this, Tesmay is so positive. Every time I see him, he is smiling and laughing. He greets me cheerfully and chats and jokes as a normal 16 year old would.
Written by a Care4Calais volunteer. To help, visit www.care4calais.org