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Refugee by William King.


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I started writing this story ( Refugee : Part One - Exodus.  ) because I was affected by the plight of refugees, especially children. The more I read about it, the more hopeless the situation appeared to be. So I decided that I would fictionalise the history of a group of youngsters, orphans, and tell their tale based on what I had researched and learned.

 

I would not avoid the harsh reality, the abuse, the pain and the suffering, but I would try to navigate a delicate path between a sort of romanticised fiction and the stark truth that lies just behind it. I mitigated the pain and suffering with a soupçon of romance and a loving relationship of some kind, although this is very far from a happy ever after book.

 

The story is currently written in two parts, the first part is being published now. It is not however a story that I find easy to leave behind me, I keep coming back to it. In some ways it is a tale without end, I desperately want there to be some kind of resolution, and some kind of happiness after all of the long journey. I don't know if I will be able to get to that point with my story, but I wanted to give here an extract from Human Rights Watch to highlight the reality behind the fiction.

 

“They Always Say ‘Tomorrow, You’ll Be Free.’”

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SEPTEMBER 8, 2016 Report    - extract - Babrak's story, he is 16 years old.

 

 

Greek law permits detaining children for up to 25 days, and for up to 45 days in certain circumstances. But children are regularly detained longer than these already excessive periods. Authorities should only detain unaccompanied children as a last resort, in exceptional circumstances, and for the shortest appropriate period.

 

When the countries north of Greece closed their borders to migrants, Babrak decided to travel to the western port city of Patras, in hopes of reaching Italy – part of a well-traveled path for migrants.

 

He snuck onto a ferry headed for Italy by hiding in the undercarriage of a truck. He said he felt thirsty when he arrived in Italy hours later, so he went to a store to buy something to drink. But Italian police stopped him and told him he had to return to Greece, even though Babrak showed them documents stating that he was under 18. It is unlawful for Italy to send anyone straight back to Greece, particularly unaccompanied children, without any kind of screening or appropriate procedure. In 2014, the European Court of Human Rights ruled the practice violated migrants’ rights.

 

A police officer took Babrak back to the ferry, confiscated his phone, and told him to change his dirty clothes in a room on the boat. But when Babrak went into the nearby room, the officer locked the door. “I tried to open it. I tried to kick the door,” Babrak said, describing his fear and confusion. He spent hours locked in this room aboard the ship bound for Greece.

 

When they arrived, Babrak got his phone back. “I remember the time” right before they took my phone, he said. “It was 10 in the morning, and when I got out, I got my phone. It was 12 at night.” He was given nothing to eat during the journey.

 

When the ferry landed at the Greek port of Igoumenitsa, Babrak was taken to a Coast Guard facility where he said he spent the next 14 days in a dirty 2-by-6-meter cell with three other children. The Coast Guard is supposed to transfer children to police, so Babrak was eventually moved to a nearby police station.

 

Babrak drew a sketch for Riddell of the 4-by-4-meter basement cell where he was held for the next five days. The crowded cell held four people who shared three mattresses on the floor. Babrak said it was rat infested and had a toilet in the room, but no door to the bathroom. An old sink provided the only source of water. To drink, Babrak repurposed an old food container to use as a cup. The little food they received was tossed through a hole in the door. Babrak said the officers treated them badly – they would come by only twice a day and kick the door, and wouldn’t respond to the children’s calls. Because there were no windows, Babrak lost track of time.

 

 Babrak was next moved to another police station. He’s not sure why – language barriers mean that children are often unable to communicate with the police holding them. When Riddell interviewed him three days later, he was sharing a cramped 1.5-by-3-meter cell with two other boys, also from Afghanistan. They were held behind metal bars. The cell was dark and dirty, but he had access to a bathroom with a door.

 

“At least it has a small window, though it’s hard to see out of the room,” Babrak said. The holding cell was not suited to hold adults for more than a few days, much less children for days on end.

 

Edited by William King
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I think I might just be able to pull this whole story together. To  that end, I am just now continuing with some research and this should cement the project and bring it to a conclusion. I know how it finishes, I just need to write the final book, the last part of the journey.

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