Feature – Refugees and the long journey to safety

By Tom Banner and the class of 2017-18

Imagine being forced out of your home and job by war, having to leave your wife and children to cross a minefield in the dead of night, knowing that soldiers could arrest you, or worse, at any moment.  It is cold, dark and you have no-where to go.

It’s a journey many people have had to make, with a UN estimate of five million Syrians fleeing the country since the civil war started in 2011. Many have been forced to leave their home land in search of safety in Europe.

Mohammed Ali, 50, had to leave his home and his family in besieged Aleppo and make the perilous trek across Turkey and into Europe in search of a better life.

He said: “I had to leave my children at home sleeping, and I had to cross a minefield to cross the border between Syria and Turkey.

“It was dark, very cold and I knew it was a live or die situation.”

From Turkey he took the cramped boat with 26 other people across the deadly waters of the Aegean Sea, which has claimed the lives of over 8,000 refugees since 2015, according to UN figures.

Mohammed’s journey took him to Britain via Greece, Italy and The Netherlands – you can read more about his journey here.

He speaks five languages including Russian, Arabic and French, and is a poet, writing several poems to describe his journey to the UK and his impressions of the world.

He also loves literature, particularly the works of Chekhov and Shakespeare.

Mohammed arrived in Britain with few possessions and had to start his life again from scratch, speaking little English and having never visited the country before.

Ashley Housing, a not for profit organisation, helped him to set up a bank account, find somewhere to live and helped him enrol on the English as a Secondary or Other Language (ESOL) course at City of Wolverhampton College.

Rose Adderley, marketing and communications assistant for Ashley Housing, said: “We currently support over 450 people in Birmingham, Bristol and London.

“We have helped 2,500 people over the last ten years, and we are aiming to reach 25,000 in next 10 years.

“We want to change some of the negative perceptions of refugees in the media, particularly when they are referred to as swarms.”

Rose and Mohammed were speaking to journalism students at City of Wolverhampton College about Mohammed’s experiences, as well as the work being done by Ashley Housing to give refugees the chance of a better, safer life.

Mohammed Ali is interviewed by NCTJ students at City of Wolverhampton College

Mohammed’s is a story is a happy ending – his family arrived in Wolverhampton in March 2017 and he hopes to become a teacher again once his English has improved.

Read more about Ashley Housing here.