Many of us have had the good fortune of a childhood free from worldly woes, filled with mostly pleasant memories. And with the exception of the occasional scraped knee or my brother eating the last of the birthday cake, my childhood is remembered as a wonderful, magical time.
But as I listened to three child refugees, Hamzat (Chechnya), Mohammed (Iraq) and Gervelie (Congo), talk about their experiences on a recent Radio 4 programme, I was reminded that some children face harrowing circumstances that lead them to flee their homes and seek refuge in another country.
Resilience in the face of conflict
Before reaching their teens these three resilient children had faced and fled conflict, torture and complicated, dangerous journeys. None of them could fully understand what was happening at the time, but like any child instinctively followed their parents.
And yet in so many ways, despite their traumatic experiences early in their lives, these children were, as presenter Jane Garvey aptly described them, ‘very typical British teenagers’.
Contributing positively to schools
According to the Office for Standards in Education 2003 report, The education of asylum seeing pupils, children seeking asylum contribute very positively to schools across the country. And for many schools, the arrival of a pupil seeking asylum has proved to be the beginning of a positive experience, building relationships between staff, pupils and the child’s family.
Every child should feel safe
‘It’s nice to be in a safe place after everything you’ve been through,’ said Gervelie who fed from the Congo with her father.
And most would agree with her. No child should feel unsafe. Ever. And if the UK can offer shelter and safety to those children forced to flee their homes, then shouldn’t we?
If you’d like to find out more about the children in the Radio 4 programme, their stories are featured in a series of illustrated children’s books The Refugee Diaries, which tells their experiences of seeking and finding sanctuary in the UK.