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Annihilation: A Refugee’s Story

A fictional open letter to the prime minister

photo via http://refugees.gr

Dear Mr Prime Minister

Good day, I would like to share with you a story regarding the current and ongoing migrant crisis.

Normally people spend their sixteenth birthdays applying for IDs or getting their learner’s license. For me, that was not the case. I spent my sixteenth birthday fleeing from a place I used to call home.

For eleven years, Sierra Leone, the country I so dearly loved, was going through a civil war, nine of which years I experienced first-hand. As you can imagine, this war stripped many things away from me; at age eight, I heard my mother get shot after she had told me and my younger brother to hide inside the closet because the Boogeyman was going to pay us a visit. After several months in a coma that the doctors couldn’t wake my mother up from, she peacefully passed away. I don’t remember much from when I was eight years old, but I remember the pain I felt after her passing being unbearable, I felt like everything inside of me collapsed. She was the person I loved most in the world.

At age ten, my father sent me to a boarding school two hours away from Freetown – the city in which I lived.  The school wasn’t much of an educational institution but more of a place parents kept their children while they either fought in the war or fought to provide for their families. Each morning I woke up hoping circumstances would get better. We’d play Sierra Leonean Roulette with our lives, never certain if we would make it or not. I had one good year in that school. Everything seemed to be fine until the day of the bombing. That morning I woke up to the skies crying and grey mist. Smoke filled my lungs as I tried to find a way out of the building. After three failed attempts of breaking the back glass door, my friend and I were able to get to safety. We passed several lifeless bodies as we were rushed to the local hospital. Fortunately, I had only bruised my leg and was able to go home as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the worst part of the war had just begun.

Like a disease, the effects of the war spread throughout the country and things were getting worse by day.

I was fifteen when I had to stay home and take care of my brother because my father worked for twenty hours of the day and over time, the idea of dying sounded rather appealing to me. I hoped death would take me sooner rather than later so I could escape the agonizing pain I was put through daily. We had no clean clothes, no shelter, and little water. We no longer had the luxury of eating three meals a day and would starve regularly. My life was turning into what sounded like a fictional horror story and the only thing I had left was hope.

It was my sixteenth birthday. As if God heard my prayers, my father came home early from work with the biggest smile on his face and wished me a happy birthday. Behind him was a tall man who told me he was from the United Nations Refugee Agency and was here to rescue me and my family. We were finally going to be safe.

Seven thousand people were killed during the Sierra Leonean war, one of which being the person I loved the most. I never thought I’d live to seventeen, but I did. Now I live happily, aged thirty-three, with my own family and a bright future ahead of me. I would have never reached the place I’m at today without your country. The United Kingdom is and will always be our safe haven. I can only hope the millions of refugees fighting for their lives can have the same luck as I had. These are my people and you let me in, so let them in too.

 

Yours sincerely

A refugee

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Written by Les Aphane

16 in South Africa

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