How could it have come to this?
They are so beautiful when they sleep. This is the only time when they look innocent and peaceful now. How could anyone feel at peace in this place? The sun will be rising soon and another day will begin. Another day to hope and survive. Hope for what? That the world will begin to care. It seems like a never ending fight, with very little to win. When the final bell rings, will we be victorious? Or knocked out.
I feel torn inside, when I look at them, and the life they have. We ran from one war, one where death was a real possibility. But now we are in a different type of war. Most people in this place are good, just searching for a better life. But some need to be watched, and these are the ones that scare me. These are the ones that scare the world.
I feel like such a failure. Did I do the right thing? It cost all the money we had to get us here, money we had worked hard for. Now we have nothing and no one wants us. Yes, we are here illegally. But what choice did I have? It is hard to apply for visas or official help when the soldiers are just around the corner. He said it would be OK, he would get us to Britain, for a price. And Britain is a modern, caring country. Right? But we didn’t make it that far and now even Europeans are being looked at with distrust. What hope for people with our skin colour?
The sky is beginning to glow through the skin of our tent, another day. Yaya is stirring; seven years old but with the eyes of one who has seen too much already. She should be carefree and playing with friends, instead she protects her brother like a wolf. I am so proud of her, but wish it was for different reasons. Now, I must be strong and not show how I really feel. They cannot see the hopelessness inside me.
“Good morning my love. Did you sleep well?”, I ask. “Like I was on a bed of feathers”, she says with a smile. But she is not on a feather bed, far from it. But she is always so optimistic, she is strong for us.
Now Abdo begins to grumble, he is more of a complainer. Maybe that is the difference between men and women. Women always seem to get on with things, especially in our culture. But he is so young, all he feels is discomfort and doesn’t have to pretend for the sake of anyone else. He is the youngest, after all. Four years old and already transplanted and transferred so many times. Yaya puts a protective arm around him and welcomes him to another day, with a smile.
These are the loves of my life. Yaya, Abdo and Nadia, my wife, their mother. A beautiful, intelligent woman who also deserves so much better. The children crawl all over her, and she awakes with a smile and a laugh. Even here, there are times to make you smile and feel grateful. But soon we will step outside and join the queues for breakfast. There are good people here, who are trying to help us. But there is only so much they can do. Hopefully there will be some fresh supplies today.
A light rain is falling, this is the worst. The dampness seems to penetrate everything here. There is no escape. I step outside, and make my way to the aid station. Everyone looks unhappy and nervous, something is wrong. There have been rumours that there will be some sort of operation, to clear some of this wasteland. And here they come. I can hear the roar of the vehicles as they approach.
In a panic, I rush back to my family. As I get there, the police are approaching. They herd us into an area, away from the tents and shacks that are our homes. We have so little, how can they take it away?
Here come the machines, on tracks, carrying huge scoops in front. Ready to pile our lives together with all the others who live here. Live, it feels ridiculous to even use that word. We don’t live, we exist. I feel sick, useless. I am supposed to protect my family, that is every father’s job; no? But what can I do, other than wipe away the tears from my wife’s face. And kiss her and pray.
They call this place The Jungle. A jungle may be dangerous, but it is beautiful and diverse. This is no jungle, this is hell.
© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswriter