The sun has gone down

Kamran Foladi, from Afghanistan

Kamran’s survival is as remarkable as his experience tragic. The account of his journey highlights many of the issues around the age assessment of children who are seeking asylum in the UK. Although he was only a child, the authorities treated Kamran as an adult, detained him for long periods and very nearly deported him, before they finally recognised him as a minor.

My name is Kamran Foladi. I am from Afghanistan and was born in Ghazni Province in Afghanistan. I was only 8 years old when I lost my entire family. Only I and my younger brother survived as we were outside the house. One of my father’s friends took me and my brother to Iran to a place called Neriz. He took us to stay at a stone factory where between 25 and 30 people worked and each factory had a cook. We helped the cook cleaning the kitchen and shopping for food. We were not paid but got free food and accommodation. As I grew up, I had learned to cook so started cooking and working for a living. I found cooking easy. However, if we made any mistakes, we got shouted at, sworn at and slapped in the face and beaten up. It was especially while cooking macaroni.

People in the factory talked about there being better conditions in Europe and better human rights. They advised me to work hard and make money to get out of Iran and go to Europe as it was not safe any more and people from Afghanistan were being deported back and we had no way back to Afghanistan. I worked as a cook for about a year and a half then in the same factory, as a stone-cutter. This was really hard work as some of the stone was so heavy. The stone was brought from the mountain, to the factory and then cut to size using different size machines. We worked all day and had two short breaks. The factory was located far from the city and a man called Hajji Kazim had a shop here and he brought food for sale. He was a nice trustworthy person and every month, I gave him all the money I had saved for safekeeping. He used this money to arrange for me and my brother to come to Europe.

We travelled through to Tehran then got on a coach and then a van to a little village near the border of Turkey. At night we walked for 24 hours across mountains and snow in Turkey. There were lots of caves in the mountains and there were about 45 to 50 people travelling together. We all stayed in the caves for two days. After two nights and two days, we climbed down and a van arrived. 25 people got on the van, which took us to a house in the city. We ate food and drink and I cannot remember how long we stayed here. Afterwards we got on to another lorry. 47 people got on the lorry. We were very lucky to get space to sit. Afterwards, the lorry was packed full of people and some people were being beaten to sit down and asked not to move. We travelled for about four and half hours then we started walking again for about four and a half hours and we crossed another mountain. It was very cold and it was snowing. We got another lorry at the foot of the mountain. There were no proper roads and the lorry got stuck in the mud. In one place, we had to all push the lorry out. The roads were so bad that we nearly overturned. We travelled on this lorry for two days and two nights. We were so happy and excited thinking that any minute we will be there now. But it took so long. This lorry took us to Istanbul. From here, we travelled through Greece, then Italy (Rome), then France.

When we got to France, we decided between ourselves that my brother would go first and swim across to the port in Calais as we had no money to pay.  The water was very deep and we were standing watching him as he swam across. A ferry came from the other side and went over him and then he disappeared. I watched this happen and started screaming and shouting. I wanted to throw myself in the water too; I wanted to save my brother. The other Afghans held me and stopped me throwing myself in the water. I was unconscious and when I came round in the morning I was asking again for my brother. They lied to me that they had told the police and no one had found him. They were lying because they were scared.  I felt so sad and empty, and didn’t know what to do. They advised me to continue travelling to the UK and not to tell anyone about my brother as I would be blamed because he was younger than me and I did not look after him. I then reached London at about five in the morning.

In London, I managed to ask for directions to the police station. I did not speak any English. I found the police station and they took me into a room, gave me some food and drink and some forms to fill. I could not understand the forms. After an hour, a lady arrived and called an interpreter to help me get in contact with the Home Office and the Refugee Council.

All the time, I was not happy at all after all my experiences and what had happened to my brother. I was very sad. I was also unconscious a lot.

The sun going down

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After one month, when I went to the home office, they said they wanted to deport me. I don’t remember what happened or what I did, but my head was bleeding, and I was beating myself. So I was taken out. I was lying outside the Home Office when the police came and took me to the police station for a few hours and when I felt better they let me go.

I was walking down the road and I felt very dizzy. I met an Afghanistan man and I told him what had happened to me. I showed him my documents and papers as I could not read, and he told me I had no problems. He told me he lived outside London, in Stoke on Trent, and said I could go there and stay with him. At Stoke on Trent station, he lied that he was going to buy cigarettes. Then he disappeared. I went outside the station and found another Afghan who took me to his home and helped me. I was here for about five to six months then I fell ill and was very weak and dizzy. I was taken to the hospital and was there for two to three weeks. The doctors were very kind and told me not to be afraid and to tell them what had happened to me and what was wrong. I told them all about my brother and how I had come to the UK and how unhappy I was. He told me also to tell the Home office and the police all. The doctor gave me medication for seven days and I had a scan.

After the hospital, I went back to the house of the Afghan guy. He said I had to leave as he couldn’t help me anymore. I was very depressed not knowing what to do or where to turn. I couldn’t remember a lot of things like what had happened to me. I don’t remember what happened but when I came round I realized I was with the police. They took me to Harmondsworth Detention Centre. There I met an Afghan boy who I told I was not well and told him my story. He promised he would ask staff to help me in the morning. The staff took me to the medical centre at the detention centre. I don’t remember what happened to me, whether I was involved in a fight. The security guards took me out. They took me to a little dark room. Five people were holding me down. I was pushed to the floor. I was unconscious. When I came round, I realized I had no clothes on. I don’t know what happened. Some clean clothes had been left for me. I stayed in here for about two weeks and was not allowed to go out at all. Before being fed, a hatch was opened and the guards told me to lie down and then they threw food at me.

There was so much tension building up inside me because of the loss of my dear brother and my family. But they all thought I had a mental problem and that I was mad.

Two to three days before coming out of the dark room, on a daily basis, I was helped to walk and then I went back to the main detention centre. After a while, a staff member called me to tell me my ticket was ready and that I was being deported. Early in the morning, some people brought my clothes back, put me in the van. They all surrounded me and took me to the airport. After that I do not remember and woke up to find myself in hospital being guarded by four people. At 4 pm, they took me to Colnbrook detention Centre.

I had £40 in my pocket and the staff took £20 for safekeeping as we are not allowed more. Two guys in the detention centre tried to steal my money while I was showering. I told security but nothing was done.

After some days, I was so ill and the doctor came to see me. I was staying on the ground floor next to a very big dining room. The two guys came over. One put his hand over my mouth while the other took my £20. I was terrified and I was screaming. Everyone was in the corridor. I told security what had happened but they denied everything. Security told me they will catch whoever goes to the shop with £20.

The two guys had other friends who kept disturbing and bullying me all the time and they didn’t allow me to play football. I had had enough. I didn’t want to live anymore. I wanted to die so that I could rest. I went up to the third floor of the building. I wanted to commit suicide, to kill myself. I jumped. I was unconscious and was taken to the medical centre. After that I was taken to another room for a few days, then back to my own room. I was on medication.

The medication helped me a lot. The nurse visited me every night and gave me different medication, which was no good for me. It made me stressed. I had a glass of water to take the medication and I just threw it on the floor and broke it in frustration. Security came and the doctor was called. The nurse lied about giving me the wrong tablets for three to four days. During the day, I was being bullied and disturbed by other people staying at the detention centre. So much was happening to me. I had had enough.

I tried to commit suicide again by jumping from the third floor. I injured my back, both legs and had to wear a collar on my neck. I was in hospital for three to five days. I was handcuffed in the hospital and had two people guarding me day and night. I looked out of the hospital window and could see nature, the sun, flowers and it looked so beautiful. I wished I could be out there and felt so sad and started crying. The female guard who was there felt sad too and started crying with me.

I was taken back to the Colnbrook Detention Centre medical centre. While I was there, someone called me to the office. When I went there, they told me that my ticket is ready and they want to deport me. At about 2 pm someone from social services came to see me. There were two ladies and one interpreter. They told me to go outside while they decide my situation. They called me back in and said I was telling the truth. They asked me to go back to my room and that I would be contacted in half an hour. I waited all evening and no one came. The centre closes at 9.30 pm. I was sitting next to the phone till 10 pm.

After that, security said they were coming to deport me tomorrow. I went back to my room. They took everything out of my room. They asked me to take all my clothes off and I refused. I took only my T-shirt off. They then called two others and took off all my clothes by force. I stayed like this in the empty room, which was cold till the next morning. There were two guards guarding the door and at 4 am, they came to take me to the airport.

By this time I was so distressed and unhappy. I had seen no human rights in the way I had been treated and had not been treated like a human being. I had had enough and didn’t mind being deported. I just wanted to leave the country now.

At Heathrow airport, I was taken to three different planes but they all did not accept me. Just as I was being put on a plane, there was a telephone call to say I should not be deported.

I was brought back to the detention centre and was given nice things and was treated very well. I found out that I had been treated badly earlier because they thought that I was older. The next day, I was out of the detention centre thanks to social services. I was taken to a hostel for two hours then to social services and the social worker was so nice to me. I am so grateful to social services for all their help and kindness to me.

I like the fact that there are many people from different cultures mixing together and no one discriminating against me.

I am constantly thinking so much and worrying. I don’t eat. I don’t sleep. I am worrying about everything. Thinking about my brother and my immigration all makes me so sad. When I was with my brother, life was very hard, but I was very happy as I had worked so hard to find somewhere safe for both of us. I looked after him like a parent. After losing him, I feel as though, it’s dark, the sun has gone down; I have lost everything, the last of my family. Life is so hard for me at the moment.  I just need people to listen to me and help me before I die. I wish I could sort this out. I am worrying about where I will go and what I will do if I am deported. I love this country as I have found a new family and new friends.

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Teenage refugge boy wrapped in a blanket

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