For children fleeing persecution and forced military service, the cold and dangerous trip across the Channel is just one part of their long and frightening journey.
Some seek safety from violence perpetrated by Daesh (ISIS/Isil) in “lawless” Iraq while others have been sent away by their families to stop them being forced into a life as a child soldier, a charity says.
Many of the young people who arrive in Dover in dinghies have travelled across Europe with no parents, guardians or relations with them.
Until recently they have been taken into the care of Kent County Council but yesterday it announced it had reached capacity.
Hundreds of children cared for in Kent are supported by the Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN), which provides help and support to asylum seekers and refugees.
Bridget Chapman, a caseworker for KRAN, told the PA news agency: “We don’t tend to ask too many direct questions about where people have come from and why they’ve come because obviously the reasons can be traumatic.
“So any information we’ve got is information that people have chosen to share with us and it’s not comprehensive.”
Many of the young people arriving in Kent on dinghies are Kurdish and have come from Iraq and Iran, she says.
“The ones coming from Iraq say it’s just lawless there, and that Isis are roaming the country effectively, torturing and killing people.”
She said that talk of an “invading force” of “fighting age” people arriving in Dover is “ironic” because so many are fleeing their country rather than face a lifetime of forced military service.
“A story I’ve heard a number of times is that the Taliban turned up at a home, told the family that they were going to be coming to get the son in the family and the family did everything they could to get that young person away from that situation.
“Eritrea is another country we get a lot of people from where people are looking at indefinite military service, military service for life.
“The young people are mostly coming precisely because they want to be somewhere peaceful and to build their lives.”
Chapman says she often hears of young people being put in the hands of a people smuggler by their parents and becoming reliant on that group of people for their existence.
She said: “They were passed from one group to another group, told to get into this lorry, onto that bus, into that car and sooner or later they find themselves in the UK but they didn’t really have any choice about that. The whole journey sounds incredibly traumatic.
“The people smugglers need to keep people under control so you hear about food being withheld, water being withheld, people being assaulted, it’s a pretty grim journey.”
On arrival at the French coast there are stories of people being handed a dinghy in a box and being told to pump it up.
“I’ve heard people when they saw the size of the boat and the number of people that were getting in it saying that they were refusing to get in it and they were threatened, hit and told that they were getting in.
“And people say that… even on really hot days, the water is cold and you get wet, you get really wet.
“People say that they were cold, many of them said that they thought they were going to die.”
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?