‘I am still scared’: Torture survivor who reached UK on rowing boat speaks out

The Canary

Speaking from an open space in the north of England, Jackson is a young man who has reached the UK after a harrowing journey from north Africa.

Forced to leave his home after his mother and brother were killed and his own life was in danger, it took him years to reach Britain.

He said: “I am still scared, I don’t feel safe because maybe any time I could go back to Sudan.”

He is one of thousands of refugees who have crossed the Channel by boat this year.

A talented footballer and fan of Raheem Sterling, he is in limbo while his asylum application is considered.

Jackson, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, spoke exclusively to the PA news agency about the hardships he has suffered and his hopes for life in the UK.

Speaking through an interpreter, he described his time in the war-ravaged region of Darfur in Sudan.

Jackson said: “For me it’s so hard. They killed my mum and my older brother and my cousin. I don’t have any contact with my father for more than two years.”

He said his father cannot walk after militia came to his home and shot him in both legs, and now lives in a refugee camp that is “like a jail”.

It is feared that hundreds of thousands of people have died as a result of the Darfur conflict, and nearly two million have been displaced.

In fear for his own life, Jackson decided to leave Sudan, leaving a business he had started.

He travelled into neighbouring Chad and on to Libya, where he was threatened and ordered to call family in Sudan to ask for money.

“I said, ‘You can kill me because I do not have anything in Sudan. If you want to kill me just go ahead, kill me because I do not have money’.”

Jackson said he was tortured with electricity by his captors as they tried to extort money from him.

He was held in jail for three months and was forced to spend two weeks fixing cars for free in return for his freedom.

Afterwards he worked as a builder in Libya to earn some money, but said he was threatened and stolen from.

Eventually he was able to travel to the Libyan capital Tripoli and on to Italy by boat, where he lived in a refugee camp.

“You do not have anything. You can’t see anybody.”

It took him three days to walk across the mountains into France in baking heat.

He then made for Calais, where he met Clare Moseley from charity Care4Calais, and immediately started volunteering to help others.

He said: “I tried to go to the UK but I didn’t have a chance because everything was closed, it was locked, it’s impossible to move to get to the UK.

“I was trying two years to do it by truck, trying to hide in a car, but I couldn’t.”

But Jackson said he was determined not to stay in France after experiencing racism.

One day he and three others set out to reach the UK on a rowing boat. The gruelling journey took 10 hours with all four constantly having to paddle.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
Boats that were seized after being intercepted in the Channel (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“To be honest, in the middle of the sea I was not scared because everyone has to sacrifice something in their life.

“I was confident in what I had to do because it was my dream. I was sure I could do it.”

They eventually landed unaided in Dover, where police confiscated Jackson’s phones.

Now he awaits the outcome of his asylum claim, still scared that he might have to go back to Sudan.

He said: “I am sure I can prove I can have a good life.

“I just want a peaceful life like anybody, to do my job, do my hobby. Just a simple life.”

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  • Show Comments
    1. Perhaps if he’d settled in the first safe country he came to it would be believable. If he speaks to anyone from The Canary he’ll understand that the whole of the UK is populated with and run by racists….
      Yet again the crap these people come out with is taken at face value. Was any evidence of his country of origin seen? Any evidence to prove the validity of his oh so common horror story?

    2. I do wonder if it’s legacy of empire that brings them to travel this far.
      A sort of Stokholm syndrome.
      The parents of this man will remember Empire, the British colonial rule. Some would have benefitted from it, in the burgeoning civil service at the time, most would have detested it. But whilst the British colonial rule extended to Sudan, there was stability of sorts.
      Perhaps it the narratives of this time that gives an optimistic overview that leads these peoples to the UK.
      He says he experienced racism in France. What, did no one tell him about how much racism he would receive here?
      Of course, if we did away with the obsolete concept of nation states, (and with it all the baggage of nationalism, armies, borders, and Othering) then he wouldn’t be a refugee, merely someone moving house, and no one would bat an eyelid.

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