After more than a year in the UK, England is starting to feel like home. I’m settled in Bedford, I go to college and I live in a shared house with eight other people who’ve become great friends.
But nothing compares to being with your mum and dad, and I haven’t seen mine in over two years.
I was 15 years old when I was forced to leave my whole life behind in Darfur, west Sudan. I remember it so clearly — it was a Thursday afternoon and I had gone to the market after school to drink coffee with friends, but I never made it home. I was arrested by the authorities and tortured for information on my father, who they suspected of being involved in anti-government activities, even though he was just a farmer.
After one week in prison they released me but my mum decided it was safest for me to leave Darfur with my uncle. It was so hard to say goodbye to my family, my little sisters are only 9 and 11 so I’m their big brother and we’re very close. I also have three brothers who I’m very close to – one of them has a disability so I look after him a lot. It really was very painful to leave.
After we left and had made it to Libya I found out that two of my brothers had been executed. I cannot describe how hard this was to hear, and to not be close to my family for comfort made it even worse.
After this news, my uncle and I decided to try and make our way to Europe. I remember being on the boat and feeling like I was surrounded by a massive amount of people. I thought my uncle was with me but suddenly he was no longer there. I lost him and never saw him again, and had to make my way to Europe alone.
I lived in the Calais jungle for eight months and eventually made my way over to the UK, hidden in a lorry for 15 hours. It was absolutely terrifying and so cold. I didn’t even know where I was when I arrived.
The UK has been extremely welcoming to me, and through refugee support projects like Surviving to Thriving, I have made lots of new friends and learned English. The language was strange for me when I first arrived but now it seems easy. I love to read Arabic-English stories from the library, and I watch YouTube all the time. I really want to speak like English people to help me integrate.
I was granted refugee status last year and am now determined to focus on building my new life in the UK and my dream of becoming a sailor. I was born by the river and I feel at home there. I really want to look for an apprenticeship like a fisherman, deckhand or skipper, so I can progress to a full-time job.
Although I am thankful for the safety that the UK has offered me, my ultimate dream is to be reunited with my family. Under current family reunion rules, however, my family cannot join me in safety here in the UK. As a refugee minor, I’m not allowed to sponsor my parents or my little sisters to come over and it pains me to think that they are still at risk in Sudan.
I am not alone in my situation which is why today, on International Day of Families, I’m joining the British Red Cross and others in supporting Angus MacNeil’s Refugee Family Reunion Bill, which is trying to expand the rules so that more refugees like me can be reunited with their loved ones.
I never stop dreaming of being reunited with my family. I try not to think about it a lot and keep myself busy because when I start remembering my home, my parents, my sisters and brothers I feel very emotional.
Being reunited with my family would be amazing, it would make me so happy. I really can’t even explain the feeling, but it’s what is keeping me going. I want to be successful to make my family proud because I really believe that one day I’m going to meet them again.