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Samir, 17, thought he was finally about to reach the UK. Now he’s dead

Publié le 19-01-2017

Source : www.theguardian.com

Auteur  : Diane Taylor

« The boy, who spent months in Calais, was one of hundreds of children still in France after being registered by the Home Office.

The boys bowed their heads as they hoisted the coffin of their good friend Samir on to their shoulders at the entrance of Cimetière Nord in Crissey.

The brightest, coldest sun lit up the pale wood of the coffin as the mourners walked to the corner of the burial ground reserved for Muslims.

The temperature was -4C but none of the boys seemed to notice the cold as they prayed by the side of the grave, shed quiet tears and helped to gently lower the coffin into the frozen earth.

Everybody was still in shock at his premature death. Samir, 17, had followed a well-trodden escape route from Sudan via Libya and Italy before arriving in Calais, where he spent eight months before the French closed the camp. His family remains in Sudan and his mother requested that his full name not be used for fear of putting the family there in further danger from the Sudanese authorities.

Samir was one of the 1,900 children registered by the Home Office who sought sanctuary in the UK. Like hundreds of other youngsters still in France the day his application was registered with the Home Office, he thought his struggle to reach the UK was coming to an end.

When the Calais camp was closed last November he was sent to a reception centre for unaccompanied minors in Taizé in the Saône-et-Loire region of France. The centre is run by the religious Taizé order, which has a long tradition of welcoming refugees. Like the rest of the boys at the centre who had fled conflict in Sudan or Eritrea, he believed it was just a matter of days before the Home Office organised transport to bring him and the other boys to the UK.

He was stunned when he was given the news that the Home Office had rejected his claim along with those of all but four of the other boys at the centre. The boys protested against the Home Office by refusing food for a week. Volunteers at the centre refused food with them in solidarity.

Samir had a brother in the UK and spoke to him almost every day. He and other boys who thought they fitted the Home Office criteria could not understand why the UK government had rejected their claims.

A few days before he died Samir travelled to Paris to meet friends. It is thought that he discussed with them the possibility of getting to England via Dunkirk. He concluded that it would not work and gave up hope of ever reaching his “promised land”. A few days later he collapsed suddenly at the Taizé centre and died. An autopsy revealed he had suffered a heart attack and had had several other minor heart attacks previously.

The death of Samir has devastated not only his friends but the close-knit, supportive communities of Taizé and the neighbouring village of Ameugny, which have taken the boys from Calais to their hearts and treated them like family. Many local residents stood by the graveside sharing the boys’ grief.

Samir’s death comes as news has emerged that the reception centres for unaccompanied minors across France will close on 10 February. Some will try to find ways to reach the UK while others will claim asylum in France.

The funeral was not quite as it would have been had it taken place in Sudan. No sheep was killed to mark Samir’s passing, and the body was not buried immediately, which caused great distress to Samir’s family. The international bureaucracy of death between Sudan and France delayed the burial by almost two weeks – he was found dead at 9.40pm on 5 January.

Orsi Hardi, one of the volunteers at Taizé, said Samir was always full of joy. Even after getting the rejection from the Home Office, he reassured the volunteers who were upset that the boys’ dreams of coming to the UK had been shattered.

“We used to finish meals by singing songs – English, French and Sudanese songs,” said Hardi. “Samir always led the singing. When he went to Paris just before he died, nobody sang and he had to lead the singing down the phone.”

Hardi, who praised the solidarity of the communities of Taizé and Ameugny with the boys, was critical of the Home Office’s treatment of those removed from the Calais camp and refused entry to the UK.

“The boys were told they would just be in the centres for two or three days. This is the shameful, revolting part of it. When they saw the Home Office officials on the buses they thought the buses were going directly to the UK,” she said.

“We are working hard to try to stop them feeling too hopeless about what the UK has done.”

A further legal challenge has been lodged in the high court on Thursday on behalf of 36 child asylum seekers from Calais after the home secretary failed to provide a full explanation for her decisions relating to the children.

The lead claimant is a 14-year-old boy from Afghanistan who is described as extremely vulnerable and suicidal.

The children have either had their applications to come to the UK refused or have not been informed of any decision made about their cases.

Lawyers requested written reasons from the Home Office and proof that officials had made best-interests assessments and considered medical evidence relating to the children several times, but this information has not been forthcoming.

The 14-year-old Afghan boy has been admitted to hospital on several occasions, most recently on 10 January for anxiety and panic attacks. His legal team say his mental health has deteriorated.

According to the documents lodged in the high court by the boys’ legal team, led by Toufique Hossain at Duncan Lewis, “it appears that no written decision exists, nor do any minutes or notes of decision making” relating to the refusal of the boys’ claims.

Hossain said : “The Home Office continue to stall in providing proper decisions in respect of our clients. They have also failed to reconsider evidence of the Afghani boy, including psychiatric evidence detailing the child’s extreme vulnerability. We had no choice but to apply to the court for further relief today. It is heartbreaking to know that children who fled trauma and persecution, who endured the horror of the Calais camp, have now been let down so badly by the UK government.”

Samir died without achieving his dream of reaching the UK. It remains to be seen whether or not any among the hundreds of boys still in France and hoping to come to the UK will succeed where he failed. »

Voir en ligne : https://www.theguardian.com/world/2...

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