Bags all packed waiting for someone to pick me up to drive me to the airport. I had no idea where I was going or who I was going with, all I knew I was waiting for someone to pick me up. I didn’t ask, I just knew I was leaving the country for good. The way my family said their farewell and how sad my dad looked told me everything I needed to know. I was too young to understand anything but somehow, I just knew deep down and was afraid to ask. I remember saying my goodbyes, I cried so much I felt my heartbreak. I could barely let go of my dad’s hand.
I was informed a few months ago I was going to go to Italy to live with my mother but I never paid any mind to it as I hadn’t seen my mother since I was 2 years old. It only became a reality once I caught the flight for the first time in my life on my own. I left my whole childhood behind for a better life with my mother who I barely knew. How could they possibly do that? How was that fair? Why was that even an option? These thoughts will never leave my mind and still to this day I can’t seem to accept it.
I lived in Italy for about a year, went to boarding school during the weekdays and saw my mother at weekends. My mother was barely able to support us financially, so she decided we needed to go to France to be smuggled into the UK. We eventually left Italy and went to France. We stayed in France for a couple of months in the Jungle with other people. For months we tried jumping on the lorries to take us to the UK without the drivers or the police noticing us. After numerous and horrifying attempts that no child should ever have to do, we successfully managed to jump on a lorry full of onions without getting caught.
25th May 2006 is the day I arrived in the UK. The police searched the lorry and found us. Took us to the station to be searched and find out where we came from. I remember being detained in the police cell, being stripped naked at the age of 11 years old. I have never been so afraid and so confused. As far as I knew I hadn’t committed any crime so why I was treated like a criminal? I was in police custody for over 24 hours before my foster carer came to collect me in the middle of the night. I will never forget the day she came because she was the first person I encountered in the UK who showed nothing but love and compassion. I didn’t know her but I felt safe. From that day on I stayed with her till I was 17 years old when I moved out.
During my time in the care system, I was hardly noticed by the social services, they never looked into my journey to the UK, the only people who really cared about that was the Home Office in order for them to give me asylum. The amount of interrogation I had to go through with different professionals was unbelievable.
Regardless of all that, I have managed to learn English from scratch, attend high school with barely any GCSEs and complete three different college courses. After finishing college I gave birth to my son and that gave me the motivation to go to university to study a BA in Applied Social Science, Community Development and Youth Work. I have had the opportunity to work with other refugee young people. To be able to support and connect with these young people has been rewarding. I love celebrating them for having so much resilience because the system doesn’t do it enough.
During my first few years in this country, I struggled to socialise and interact with others, I felt like an outsider with little English, barely any family history, so afraid to get close to anyone and embarrassed to tell anyone I was in the care system because then it meant I had to disclose why I was in care. I wasn’t comfortable with that, so I made excuses about why I didn’t look like my foster carer when we were out. I eventually lost my own identity; I lost my mother tongue and integrated within the British. I do get reminded from time to time that I am not British when I have to travel or
when I apply for a job because I have to explain why I have a travel document rather than a British passport.
Despite everything, I have accomplished many things during my time here in the UK. I could potentially see myself doing a lot more, but I want to go back home because I have no place in this country, I never have, and I doubt It will change. I have lived in many places during my time in the care system and none of them felt like home. Although I have my own house and I have lived here long enough, I don’t feel at home and I don’t know if I will ever belong anywhere, but I am certain that going back to Eritrea will give me some clarification.