"I lost my childhood" - Two young people speak about seeking refuge in the UK
How would it feel to be accused of being a witch and be beaten and scalded with boiling water? How would you cope with having to leave your family behind and spend a month in the back of a lorry just to reach safety? What would it be like to be alone in a strange city as it is getting dark, have nowhere to go and not be able to speak the language to ask for help?
For most children living in the UK these scenarios are simply unimaginable. But in these two podcasts available to download below, Neema and Behnam – who have received support from Freedom from Torture – talk about their very real experiences of being forced to flee their home countries and seek refuge in the UK.
Neema was separated from her mother during the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) when she was only 6-years-old. She then went to live with her aunt but was accused of being a witch by a church pastor when her aunt's child became ill and died. She was eventually rescued by a family friend aged 12 and brought to the UK.
Neema talks here about losing her childhood and living in a constant state of fear before arriving in the UK to be reunited with her mum. She also explains how scary it was to go to school and how she has eventually felt more able to open up to other people.
Behnam was only a young child when his father – who worked for the Taliban – was abducted in Afghanistan. Afraid for her son, Behnam's mother desperately arranged for him to flee the country for his own protection. His journey – mostly by lorry – with an agent to the UK took about a month and he arrived in the UK as an unaccompanied 13-year-old. Four years later Behnam has gained eight GCSE's, is studying for a Business Diploma and speaks four different languages.
Behnam talks here about leaving his family behind in Afghanistan and the confusion of arriving in a strange country where he did not speak the language and did not know where to turn for help.
Around a hundred children who have been affected by torture are referred to Freedom from Torture for help every year. As well as trying to come to terms with the lasting physical and psychological consequences which result from torture, these young people must also then cope with a range of other difficulties. Everything from living in an unfamiliar country whilst attempting to navigate a complicated and confusing asylum system, to adapting to a new school and friends with limited or no English.