Brook House Protester: ‘We came here and we just want the chance to live and find peace.’

We are Yeminis and we are detained here, in Brook House in the UK. Our country is going through a war.

We left Yemen to escape persecution and war and to avoid death. And to come to a country that is safe, where we can live safely and healthily without fear of persecution.

All the cities have been destroyed by the war. There are so many weapons in the country. They are giving weapons to young kids to turn them into soldiers. There is a lot of corruption and there are no jobs. There is no choice other than to be involved somehow in the conflict. The youth feel like they are being brave and courageous by joining and it makes them feel that they are involved in something important, but they are dying or being imprisoned.

We are protesting because we are trapped and detained, and we are being threatened with removal to Spain on Thursday. When people leave their country they come to a place like the UK for its peace and safety. We don’t want to take advantage of welfare or anything, we want to work and study and to contribute to society. For Yemenis, a lot of us feel that there is peace and security in Britain.

I feel that the UK is our mother country because there are a lot of Yemenis here, we have family and family friends here. There are twenty Yemenis that are detained. Their mental health is suffering from the situation; they just want to get out and live in peace.

The protests are to bring attention to the suffering of the Yemini people, so that we can be released. And so that we are able to live with peace and justice. We hope that the British government will act justly and let us live here.

To get to Britain there was a lot of pain along the way. At first I was in Mauritania, then I was in the deserts of Mali. Then we made our way to Algeria after a 3 day long trip in which we ran out of water. We were scared that the government would catch us and send us back to Niger because that’s what they were doing to a lot of refugees and it happened to my friends. They were sent back to Niger after numerous attempts and payments that they made to get to Algeria. We then walked to a place in Algeria over 2 days – during which we were not allowed to stop or sit down. In the day time we were hiding and in the night time we were walking. We reached a place called Aïn Salah (Algeria). And then walked to another place called Ghardaia (in Algeria). After the sunset, we walked as far as we could until it was morning in an area called Djidiouia (Algeria), and the guy that was taking us was scared he would get caught and left us in the desert all the day. We were out of food and water and we were trying to hide. A lot of people gave up – they tried to find officials to hand themselves in.

Then the guy that was taking us came back and we started walking immediately – through mountains – I felt  faint and like I was going to pass out. When we reached Oujda (Morocco), 20 of us crammed into a car. The people in the car were from all over, some Syrians, some Yemenis. At each checkpoint/city, you had to pay a sum of cash. Up until this point I had given $3,500. I was lucky because other people had to pay a lot more.

I went to Nador in Morocco and we were there for 3 months. People would say they could take us to Europe but then they would take our money and then leave us. There are still some people I know who have lost all their money and are still waiting in Nador. And If you didn’t have money, people would try to jump over the wall to get to Melilla. This wasn’t free either – it would still cost money to climb the wall. I know some people who have fallen and broken their legs are still waiting to climb the wall. I finally crossed the wall.

In the camp in Melilla, it was tough. There was a lot of stealing; people had knives. It felt lawless. I wanted to leave and get out as soon as possible. When I was given refugee status, I was able to get to Madrid. I tried to get to the UK through Belgium and then from France. I was in Dunkirk for a month. I went to a car park there to try to get onto a truck, but there were people with weapons, and  it wasn’t possible even after several attempts. In the jungle there was a lot of conflict between people.

I got on a small boat to the UK – we thought we were going on a truck but that didn’t happen. We were told we had to go by water. They said it was going to be a short trip of 40 minutes. In fact, we left at 3am and we were still going at 8am. There were a lot of waves – we saw death. All we could see was water and sky. People had paid $3000 or $5000 to make this journey and they really thought they were going to die. Some people had paid all that they had, and owned some even borrowed from family to make this payment. 

On the journey, I was thinking about all I had to endure to get there. I was thinking about being close to death in the desert and death in the waves. I felt that like this was the end.

I remembered in the desert, I was so desperate that I asked my friends to just leave me there but they helped me push through. I thought of all this while thinking that I was going to die on the boat. I remember when we spent a night in Dunkirk, and one of the mafia  threatened us and said that this is your last night here otherwise we’ll shoot you.

And I felt a deep sorrow and sadness that after all that we had been through we might not even  make it and that this would be the end.

When we reached Britain it was like we had come alive again.  We were so happy. Everyone was taken to different cities. We told our families that we had made it. I was taken to Coventry, near Birmingham. I was there for 4 months.

Everyday, I would go running – I needed to get fit! People would be really nice at the park. I became friends with two older people – one was 100 and another was 85. We took a selfie together. I would talk to them everyday, and our friendship made me really happy. I would do push-ups and pullups. I also started learning English at home.

In my 30 years of life – it hasn’t been great. But here I felt that for the first time I could live out my dreams.

11 days ago, immigration enforcement came in the early morning to the place I was staying. My dream became a nightmare.

It has been really hard. I feel so depressed. I have started hating food, hating life. My friends and I are finding it really hard. I have felt suicidal and that it is not worth it to be sent back. After  having tried so hard for this. I have lost so much money and time. I can’t imagine that I will be able to continue if I’m sent back to Spain after all this.  My friends and  family friends are all here. 

I have a ticket for the 27th August but we are hoping to challenge it with our solicitors.

We came here and we just want the chance to live and find peace. And we want to be given the chance to flourish in society. I have hope that I will be able to get out and I will be treated with justice. I want to be active and contribute to society here.

Thank you to everyone who is helping us and continues to help us. God bless them.

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