‘He was very scared’: the death of a teenage stowaway

Last month 14 -year-old Raheemullah Oryakhel died to reach the UK. As the Calais camp where he lived is dispersed, where will children like him lead?

The death of Raheemullah Oryakhel, a 14 -year-boy from Afghanistan, was celebrated last-place month with just a couple of paragraphs in the French press, for the purposes of the headline One migrant dead on the port ring road. There was nothing much to provoke further interest; the boy was the 12 th refugee to die in Calais this year. The news item added that Raheemullahs body had been found on the N216, on a stretching of motorway where a number of migrants had previously been run down. Police said he had perhaps been hit by a vehicle. Whoever was behind the rotate had not riled to stop.

Nor are the details of Raheemullahs death especially stunning to the handful of relatives and acquaintances he left behind in the Calais clique, a fetid, cramped assemble of sagging donated tents and approximately constructed wooden shacks , now home to an estimated 9,000 asylum seekers. The theory that vulnerable children, some as young as eight, who have mostly absconded conflict zones, should spend night after night trying to leaping on to moving vehicles, in a hopeles( and mainly abortive) attempt to reach the UK, surprises no one. Its a risky business. Sometimes parties get suffocated in the trucks, or frozen in refrigerated containers; sometimes they choose a different itinerary and drown trying to swim to England or get electrocuted on the railway. And sometimes they just get run over.

But there is sadness and some bitterness at the moves failure to stop, and at the apparently cursory quality of the police investigation. Abdul Wali, an older camp tenant who helped invoke more than 4,000( 3,516) to send Raheemullahs body back to his mothers, says, Even in Afghanistan, if someone is hit by a vehicle, at least the operator will take him to a police headquarters or infirmary and say sorry. Here, beings are croaking and no one cares.

Raheemullah is possibly the youngest asylum seeker to die hitherto, but his death epitomises the risks that hundreds are taking each night on the roads outside Calais. As the French government is prepared to dismantle the camp next week, is an attempt to scatter its residents all over the country instead, the sense of need smothering the mission to get to the UK has intensified. It is an unbearable place for everyone involved: the lorry operators, Calais residents, local police( who are spent by nightly patrols) and, most of all, for the cliques population.

Boys and young men play cricket by the barrier that surrounds the Calais camp. Picture: Abbie Trayler-Smith for the Guardian

The last-place person to see Raheemullah alive was almost certainly his acquaintance Karim, too 14, who was trying to pull him on to the top of a moving lorry shortly before dawn on Friday 16 September. I was adding, Give me your hand but he didnt, Karim mentions. He didnt listen. It was a terrifying few minutes, in total darkness. One second his friend was there, the next he was gone.

Until recently, Karim( an assumed name to avoid anything that might involve his asylum affirm, should he ever is now in a position to make one) was showing anyone he met a photograph of his dead sidekick, taken in the Lille morgue, gazing as bad as you are able to expect after a lethal road accident. Voluntaries who have stepped in to support the activities related to the hundreds of children at the camp have since influenced him to delete the epitome from his telephone. They know Karim is ravaged, but have little at their disposal to encourage him up. One voluntary took him out of the clique for an ice-cream; another took him to the donations warehouse and went him a brand-new pair of socks.

Because the French permissions are unwilling to recognise the camp, there is no UN presence here, and no mainstream childrens benevolence on place; the 800 or so parentless children( a third of them from Afghanistan) are left primarily to look after themselves. Voluntaries with groups such as Help Refugees do their best, but are chagrined at the hopeless inadequacy of what they can offer. We have a severely traumatised child, one enunciates, and what can we do? We do: Your best friend dead, hes been squashed, have an ice-cream. Its awful.

Two weeks after the accident, Karim sits on a wooden pallet at the edge of the camp and explains how he and Raheemullah came to be on the motorway before dawn that night. The two sons had walked for an hour along the high barbed-wire fencing that separates the clique from the road, to a place where other asylum seekers had dragged some wooden logs into the centre of the road, pushing lorries to slow down.

Both had constructed frequent night-time to make efforts to get to England together. Karim has been in the camp since January, trying most darkness to draw his road across the Channel. Raheemullah, who came from the same part of Afghanistan, arrived here July, and the two became friends. Most evenings they played cricket and volleyball on the wasteland beside the motorway. He was a good friend, Karim enunciates. I liked him very much.

They spotted a mob of people hoping to push their method on to the stream of heavy goods vehicles as they braked to navigate such obstacles. Karim and Raheemullah followed two older mortals, clambering on to the axle between the operators cab and the receptacle slouse of the lorry. Karim managed to get on to the top of the receptacle, but Raheemullah was still on the ridge between the taxi and the remainder of the truck when it began to gather rush. Karim responds the lorry started swerving abruptly, as if trying to shake off the uninvited fares. He leaned over the leading edge, offering his pal his hands. Why didnt he take it? he asks.

No one knows quite what happened next. One of the older husbands cut a small defect in the ceiling of the truck( a pitch-black vehicle with an enormous crimson logo on the side, Karim alleges ). Karim lowered himself through it into the receptacle, which deemed a shipment of swivelling role chairs, and hid there as the truck continued to the port. Some era eventually, he was discovered by port agents before the truck drove on to the boat. When he returned to the camp, he discovered his friend was missing.


Raheemullah lived in the camp in a windowless chipboard shack with his first cousin, Wahid, 23, and two other husbands. No one has moved his belongings, a few robes stored in plastic bags. The grubby dark-brown covering and mattress where he slept for the last two and a half months of his life are still there.

Wahid is better able to articulate the loss and fury he feels about his cousins demise. He communicates good English, having wasted three years at secondary school in Norwich, after fleeing the Taliban when he was 14. He was taken in by a foster family, constructed pals, contemplated hard, took a part-time responsibility in a Chinese takeaway and then, at 17 and a half, his example was reconsidered and he was told he would be extradited back to Afghanistan, which the Main office categorises as a safe destination. He invested some time trying to appeal, but left for Europe rather than be sent back. There are a lot young Afghan beings, with fluent English, in a same statu in Calais.

Wahids friend Abdul went to institution in Birmingham( also after being threatened by the Taliban ), before being told at 17 that he was no longer eligible to remain in England. Both hope to return to the UK, which is the place they consider home, to appeal for leave to stay.

Wahid in the shanty he shared with Raheemullah; his cousins bed and clothes ought to have untouched. Photograph: Abbie Trayler-Smith for the Guardian

Wahid was outraged to see his cousin, whom he had not insured since he was a child, arrive in the clique. While equivocal about Raheemullahs determination to get to England, generated his own motley experiences, Wahid didnt to continue efforts to dissuaded him. It was not my job to tell him how to decide his life. Instead, he invited him to come and share his hut. Raheemullah had passed alone from Afghanistan, and been badly hit by Bulgarian police; he was alleviated to find someone to protect him. For a few months, they went out together five nights a week, is striving to jump on a lorry.

In the beginning he was happy, Wahid alleges. He said it was good recreation. Gradually he realised it was not easy, that it was high-risk. Sometimes Id read, tells go tonight, and hed reply, No, tomorrow. I knew he didnt want to go. He was very scared. Its a one-hour walk in the dark. You appear just scared the French beings. You worry that if they see you alone, maybe they will beat you. Sometimes “theres” 100 people by the road, trying to get into the lorries. Beings are pushing. Of trend someone is going to fall over and get hit.

Wahid was also aware the camp wasnt a safe plaza for Raheemullah. Thats why I responded, The sooner you can go from here, the very best. There is fighting between the Sudanese and the Afghans, between the Afghans and the Afghans for no reason, just because of the tension here. It get boring. You sleep, wake up, sleep, wake up. You cant shower for a week. Parties are frantic. It is not a good place for anyone, specially not a child.

He tones indignation at how slow the British reply has been. Raheemullah had an older brother in Manchester, and was in theory eligible to meet him in the UK; but the process for organising reunification is very slow, administrative and hard to understand. It is not clear how much his brother was able to help with the application, or if the working paper had even been lodged. Charities estimate “theres” 300 to 400 unaccompanied children in Calais with relatives in the UK; but even in straightforward occasions, the legal process takes between five and 10 months, during which period the children often dispense with waiting and start doing the nightly travels to the motorway instead.

Security has been increased around the port, so that finding a way in has become harder and far more dangerous. Drive currently being begun on a 1.9 m, 1km-long wall to block off the dual carriageway, half-funded by the UK. Although French president Franois Hollande has committed to clearing the camp by the end of its first year, the issue is scepticism about how easy it will be to find dwellings for everyone. Officers is argued that beings will stay on, and the barriers will still be needed. Why are you expend the money on improving a wall? Abdul thinks, sitting with Wahid in a caravan that serves as a clothes spread extent, donated tracksuits piled up on the surfaces. You are squandering coin. If they hadnt constructed these fences, beings wouldnt gamble their lives.

Wahid and Raheemullah managed to get on lorries together three times, but every time were attracted off at the border by bureaucrats with sniffer bird-dogs. The police were nice with him. And, because of him, the latter are nice with me as well. They take you to the front of the port and add, Go back to the jungle. Early last month, Wahid hurt his back badly after his sidekicks applied a heavy box over him to secrete him inside a lorry. I was under it for eight hours. I couldnt stand[ it] any more, so I left.

The Calais camp, home to an estimated 9,000 asylum seekers. Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith for the Guardian

When Raheemullah proposed he come with him early on the morning of 16 September, Wahid pronounced no: his back was extremely unpleasant. I told him to be careful. He knew it was very dangerous. The next morning, when it became obvious Raheemullah was missing, a youth worker from the camp inspected neighbourhood infirmaries and police stations to look for him. Eventually, Wahid went to the morgue to identify the body. Raheemullahs face was so badly marred, he was unrecognisable, except for his invests and a distinctive mark on his arm. Wahid makes his cousin wasnt strong enough to draw himself up on to the roof. He was young, he had no muscles.

Wahid spoke to his uncle, Raheemullahs father, in Afghanistan, but spotted himself unable to break the news. They asked what happened, and I said, He is injured. I told them a lie. His mothers are quite age-old. I didnt wishes to hurt them. He expects their older son called eventually, from Manchester, to be said that. Since the body arrived back in Afghanistan, accompanied by another relative who came from Norway to travel with the coffin, Raheemullahs mothers have called again to ask how their son croaked. The calls are distressing: They keep echoing me. I enunciate, You dont need to know. He is dead. Why realize them more upset?

It is still unclear why Raheemullahs mothers transmitted their son 4,000 miles across Europe to try to start a new life in England. Wahid isnt forthcoming; his own experiences of hostile questioning by the Home Office have become him cautious of the issue and he will say merely that it wasnt an economic difficulty. There was a peril for him. But Karim makes the absence of work in postwar Afghanistan was a factor. He was going to send fund to his family. “His fathers” was an old boy he couldnt labor. No one wants to go to England, but if the government had troubles at home, thats why they go.

Whatever the reason, the decision to send a child away is never taken thinly, Wahid supposes. Of track this is gonna be wishing with their nerves now that they hadnt. They didnt know he was going to die. His own advice to other mothers now is not to send their children to Europe, but there is often a reluctance to listen. On the whole, children do not tell their parents about the difficulties they have encountered, so an impractical impression persists. Life[ in Afghanistan] is very hard. Theres Isis and the Taliban, and no protection. They dont know anything about the situation in Calais. The mothers dont are informed about health risks. Abdul has become equally firm. I “ve got five” brethren. They announce me and ask, shall we come? I allege, if you come, you will sleep in the street. Please dont debris your time.

Volunteers attempt to persuade refugees to claim asylum in France, rather than wasting months and risking “peoples lives” trying to are going to the UK. They point out that especially for young person from Afghanistan it obligates more sense be retained in France, because there is less risk of being deported when they approaching 18. But it is hard to persuade children whose mothers have paid large sums of fund to complete them across Europe. Party smugglers operating in the clique too have a vested interest in encouraging others to get to the UK, differently their business simulate disappears.

Increasing numbers of camp occupants have applied for asylum in France; it is now predominantly those with relatives in the UK who persist in their attempts to join them. But many of those children who decide to stay in France are told there is no room for them in the nearby disaster shelter, which is turning away between 15 and 35 children a era, so they remain in a hazardous limbo. No one was aware that most children will be sent once the clique is shut down.

Wahid conceives any investigation into his cousins death has already been closed. No one has come to look for witnesses in the clique. He drew one inspect to the police station when he was searching for Raheemullah, where he supposes the police officer was insulting; he is reluctant to go again because of his illegal status in France. They dont care who has died. To them, were just illegal migrants, jungly parties. The prosecutors bureau of Boulogne-sur-Mer did not respond to emailed requests for details of the police investigation.

Meanwhile, a minutes stillnes was held for Raheemullah in the camp at the end of September. Sidekicks who wasted day with him in the Kids Cafe, a wooden shack dishing free meat to unaccompanied children, say he was shyer than most. Mary Jones, an English volunteer who runs the coffeehouse, describes him as very quiet and polite. He attended some of the English assignments given by voluntaries, who remember him as reserved, in a well-brought up acces and very determined in everything he did, especially memorizing English.

If Raheemullahs death failed to register more broadly in France, it has had a quiet but significant impact in the UK both positive and negative. Some of the news reporting stimulated delight among the more extreme anti-immigration singers on Twitter( even to harden attentions, to respond to this death by typing tweets such as Cant they evidence it materializing I would enjoy watching it one less to worry about goes beyond the normal parameters of nastiness ).

More constructive was the decision by a group of Conservative MPs to write to home secretary Amber Rudd, calling on her to do more to assist reunite children such as Raheemullah with their own families. The note, signed by former education secretary Nicky Morgan and nine others, told Rudd that Raheemullah had a legal right to be with two brothers but that, having waited for months in wretched circumstances, “hes taken” fate into his own hands with devastating consequences.

It was discussed at last months Labour party conference, very, by Alf Dubs, the kindertransport child refugee and Labour peer, who in May forced the government to accept an amended Immigration Act, agreeing to give homes to some of the estimated 88,000 unaccompanied asylum seekers in Europe. Since his amendment was guided, none of the qualifying children has arrived in the UK. At a seminar periphery meet, Dubs stopped his determination to be politely cooperative with the governmental forces, describing them as bloody-minded liars for failing to act.

As the demolition appointment approachings, expressed concerns about the destiny of unaccompanied children is rising, but a answer has yet to be found. Last-place day French police is trying to demolish the camp, 129 children went missing, according to Help Refugees. Karim has promised voluntaries that he wont try clambering on lorries again, but they believe he is still proceeding each night anyway.

On Monday, Rudd told parliament that she wanted to speed up the transfer of those children with clas in the UK, and that Britain would help to fund a shelter in France for children whose instances necessity longer regard. She promised to cut the bureaucracy involved, but there were no details of how many children would be given sanctuary here, and when they could arrive.

Meanwhile, the bald-pated roll of registered migrant extinctions compiled by the local police germinates longer, with a 13 th fatality in late September and a 14 th fatality last-place Sunday. This times toll includes: a migrant whose fornication could not be identified at the time of the uncovering of the body, met submerge in Calais port; an Afghan migrant, 22 times, hit by an HGV on the A16 just before 6am; form of a migrant found dead around 7am near the port bypass injuries recommend this migrant was hit by a vehicle; a Sudanese migrant, 30 times, hit by a freight train on the rail, close to the port bypass; a migrant of unknown tribe on the A16 at the A47 interchange. No witness. Raheemullahs death is there, preserved succinctly: Around 5:30 am, the lifeless organization of a migrant found on the port ring road.

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