A 16-year-old asylum seeker has thanked foster carers for coming to his rescue after spending three days crammed in the back of a lorry.
The teenager couldn’t speak any English and had no idea where he was when he was dumped by the side of a motorway in South Gloucestershire.
He had been separated from his family as they fled their war-torn homeland of Iraq and he’d had no food while squashed into the back of a cramped truck.
He is one of an increasing number of unaccompanied children who are being placed in care after arriving in England.
He said: “I was in the back of a lorry for three days – I think I was in one lorry for about two days and in another lorry for one day.
“I must have gone on the ferry but I couldn’t see outside, I couldn’t see a thing.
“I got separated from my family, they were in another lorry. I had no idea what was going to happen to me.”
“Then I was next to a busy road, I didn’t recognise anything, I just saw cars and people kept pressing their horns. It was very scary.”
The teenager was picked up by the police and then later collected from the police station by a foster family.
He was under the care of South Gloucestershire Council for 28 months and lived with three foster families in that time.
He said he was welcomed into their homes and made to feel safe and secure in a country and culture that was completely alien to him.
He said: “I was somewhere I had never been before. I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know what was going to happen.
“Life was very different. The first couple of weeks were really hard as I tried to get used to it.
“But I just knew I had to get on with it. Things got better.”
The teenager had a translator to help smooth his transition into British life, had English lessons and started school.
He described it as “a very nerve-wracking time” but he soon build up his confidence, improved his language skills and gradually settled into the country.
He said he was grateful to be given some independence and welcomed into a family environment when he had nowhere else to go.
But he said people had mixed feelings about him being in the UK. He said some people didn’t understand the plight of asylum seekers or the fear and persecution they suffer in other countries.
He said: “I never knew how people were going to react to me. Some people are really nice when others are just nasty.
“If you come from another country, not everyone likes it. People take the mick out of you and pick on you.
“Some English people are very racist, they don’t care about you. They would call me names, just because I am Muslim, it made me feel angry.
“They think I don’t have respect for women. They think I am a dangerous person. They ask me if I have a gun. I always have to tell people no I don’t carry a gun.”
He added: “I always say, if people are nice to me then I am nice to them.”
The teenager agreed to talk about his experiences as part of a new training video to help make foster carers culturally aware of the backgrounds, religions and languages of asylum seekers.
As an unaccompanied child, he was given discretionary leave to remain in the UK until he was 18. He would have then had to have his application for asylum decided by the Home Office.
However, the boy managed to track down his mother and made the decision to be repatriated to Iraq. He says he will fondly remember his time in foster care in England and hopes to go on to work in the IT sector.
For more information on fostering with South Gloucestershire Council, call us on 0800 206 1443 or go to www.fostersouthglos.org.uk
[caption id="attachment_634" align="alignnone" width="640"] Family Placement Team Training Officer Catherine Charlton talks to the 16-year-old asylum seeker who was in care in South Gloucestershire for 28 months[/caption]