Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 April 2021
‘You just realize in the moment you have to run away, that's all you think. You don't think whether I am gonna be here, or I am gonna be there … Because the thing is, you just think in the moment, ‘oh, I have to run away from here’ … But when you reach here, you will know that, in the future, you will come to the better country. Because I know that I passed the worst things … It's not easy as a lady, as a girl, at a young age … you know things are not gonna be easy but you passed like the worst things. Just when you left the country.’ (Julia, Eritrea)
Julia arrived in the United Kingdom (UK) at the age of 17 having fled Eritrea suddenly because of events linked to her religion. She travelled with the support of an agent via Sudan and then to France, where she stayed for several months. Every day she tried to make the crossing via lorry to the UK. She found the journey incredibly hard: ‘You face a lot of things, a lot of abuse. It's not just physical abuse but also emotional, it's just general abuse.’ But she believed that whatever she endured, it was better than what she had left behind. Julia was granted indefinite leave to remain within a short period of time and was able to slowly start building her life in relative safety in the UK, despite at times, as we will see, an acute lack of support.
Jamal was 24 when we met him. He had left Afghanistan as a child many years previously and since then had spent most of his life on the move still in search of somewhere safe to live. Arriving as an unaccompanied child in the UK, he spent several years in a city that he loved and then, after turning 18, was refused any permanent legal status to remain and forcibly removed to Afghanistan from where, seeking to migrate to Australia, he became stuck in Indonesia.