Thursday, February 19, 2009

Somebody's Son.


It had been a normal weekend. Until late Sunday afternoon.

And then he didn't arrive home for our very late traditional Sunday lunch.

"He's possibly just got tied up with friends and forgotten that the buses don't run late on a Sunday." Said Hubby.

In the two months that he had been living with us as a teenage foster child, Abdul Qudoos had always managed to get home before the buses "ran out" so to speak. But not on this particular day.

Arriving in England as an Asylum seeker hadn't come without its difficulties. It appears that anyone in danger, for whatever reason, can pay a "people trafficker" to get them out of Afghanistan. The service doesn't come cheap however and so it's not for the fainthearted. They pay something in the region of 12000 euros - to someone who is really little more than a criminal. And for all that money, with mothers often selling their dowries to ensure that their sons have a better or safer life, the families have no guarantee that their children will arrive safely in England, or anywhere else.
All have a "suitable" birth date. This is always on the 1st of January of the relevant year that would make them just under 16. (They don't admit to knowing their actual birthday. They are possibly trained by the people trafficker to sell themselves as being under 16. This was they can be "looked after children", educated, and in with a better chance of asylum.)

We are fairly sure that Abdul is probably older than 16. We cannot know for certain, but the signs would say that he possibly is. However, as someone pointed out to us, he is "somebody's son." If he were your son, you would I am sure feel differently.

It is a seriously precarious business.

They travel via the underside of lorries, cars, trucks and anything else that you can think of, but not in any conventional manner or by any conventional form of transport. They arrive some months later in a very dirty set of clothes and no paperwork, to be picked up by the police. The lucky ones are then picked up by the Social Services and put into care - as is hoped for. From there they are usually put into emergency care for 28 days, and then onto a more permanent arrangement, such as our house. This is where we came into the equation, a month after Abdul's arrival. As far as we know he has been in England three months. A month with the first carer and then two months with us.

The boys, having established themselves in a foster home undergo a number of interviews with the Home Office and over the course of months and years that follow, their fate as to whether or not they can stay in the UK is decided.

Having put yourself through all that, it has got to be something seriously unnerving to make you risk everything and run away.
Back to that Sunday.....

Our other Afghan boy, also being fostered by us, started phoning round their mutual friends.

No-one had seen Abdul, so it appeared. Not since the day before.

At 6 o'clock Hubby went in search and I called the police and Social Services. As foster carers we do not have full legal guardianship of our charges, although in practice it is clear that on a day to day basis we are the ones who need to do all the things that any caring parent would. In fact it wasn't possible to get hold of Abdul's social worker, but the police were happy to come round and take a statement, and of course search our house. I had often wondered what it must be like to be at the receiving end of police searching your house for evidence. Now I knew. Nothing was left unturned. I went back into Abdul's room and put the drawers back. The police were polite and kind, but I couldn't help but think that they could have put the drawers back. Maybe I am just fussy. Or maybe I hadn't expected that we were being treated as potential suspects.
The next morning hubby scoured Gloucester again. I rang the lawyer that Abdul had been due to meet. They had been planning on discussing his immigration procedure. The lawyer, also in Gloucester, clearly needed a bit of clarification. I rang Hubby. "I'll go down there" he said.

Between them they deduced that possibly Abdul had become frightened about his story that he was going to present to the Home Office. It is a scary business telling the Home Office why you might want to stay in this Country, especially when your story isn't quite what the Home Office may consider a good case for political asylum. Especially when perhaps someone has maybe pointed that out to you. You may just be tempted in Abdul's situation to want to "tweak" the story slightly, to what you think might ensure that you do get whatever it is that you intended to get when you came to England.

This is what we think happened. Of course, we don't really know. We hope and pray that he is not hurt or worse...

Perhaps he has run away with a view to fixing his story and starting again as a "new" asylum seeker. Perhaps he intends to be "found" on a lorry. He possibly hasn't anticipated that the fingerprints that the Police took on arrival can be cross referred, and so even giving a different name wouldn't help.

Or perhaps he is hiding with friends in Gloucester in the ever growing Afghan community, with a view to maybe re-emerging at some point as an adult asylum seeker. This really wouldn't be a good idea. He may have to be there a long time...

Sadly, we really have no idea though, and we really would like to just know where he has gone. If he comes back soon, then we can help him. If he misses his appointment with the Home Office on Monday though, he will possibly be considered an absconder. His chances of getting asylum from then on in will be considerably reduced. And, of course he is almost certainly misguided if he thinks that he can restart the whole process again by being "found".

In the meantime ... having turned over every stone that we can think of, asked everyone that we know to turn over all their stones and turned up nothing ... all we can do is wait.

If you see him though, please ask him to go home to Sally and Derek's house. Soon.

20 comments:

Mary Alice said...

Ahhh - Sally your good mother's heart must be so worried. I hope and pray that he stays safe.

Karmyn R said...

Oh no! I hope he is okay - just running scared and returns home to you soon. To have come so far already and now give up?

Eloise said...

Oh, Sally, what a heartbreaking story. I hope he is in touch with you soon. Please keep us posted.

Anonymous said...

Knowing you and Derek as I do, I know how heartbreaking this is for you. Thinking of you loads Carol xXx

Asha said...

Oh dear! Why did he do that? It's better if he is goes thru' legal way and become somebody's son in UK!
Hope he realizes it and comes back. He probably felt out of place which is natural of course, takes time to adjust to new home and life. Hope he will come back to you Sally.

elena jane said...

wherever he is, i pray he is okay!! you're a good mum sally!! :)

Pamela said...

oh dear. The questions, the questions.

ChrisB said...

I do hope that he's OK. It's the not knowing that must be really awful. I think you might well be right about being older than 16! Please let us know if you get news.

Anna Lomax said...

heya mum!:)
you're a fabulous mum i dont know why he left...dont blame yourself!!:D:D hes a dweeeeeb!!:)

p.s. I'm in english right now and i'm doing my essay but i can't be bothered!! hehe....also do you think you might be able to help me later??:)

love you Anna xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

uncle Norman said...

Sally

The boy doesn't know how lucky he is to have somebody like you who cares.

I wouldn't hold the rummaging against Mr Plod it is their job and not every lad is quite as innocent as he might seem. Look at Boy George for instance.

Seriously, I am back in the UK next week for an inquest and the following week for a funeral - occupational hazard!

Email me some details an I will see if I can get somebody to sniff him out. No promises.

N

Ignorminious said...

Oh dear Sally, how terrible! I really hope he turns up safe and soon. It is all too easy to get caught out trying to buck the system. Honesty is a far better policy I feel.

Do let us know if you hear anything won't you?

Akelamalu said...

This situation must be so worrying for you Sally. I hope he turns up before it's too late. :(

Ailsa said...

Hi Sally,

Any news regarding Abdul?

Flowerpot said...

Oh I do hope he turns up soon Sally. You must be worried sick.

Sally said...

Hi everyone...

Thank you for all your lovely comments.

No, no news....

Sadly the Social Services have decided that he is no longer in placement, and the police are treating him as an absconder, as they feel that it is his choice probably. Also, Social Sevices have so many others like Abdul to place, that they can't leave Abdul's room empty for too long. As such we will be getting someone else next week.

Our other refugee thinks that if he is a good Musim then he will eventually let me know where he is, as he has been part of our family and in essence eaten with us.

In the meantime, all we can do is wait. It's very sad.

Eloise said...

I keep checking back here hoping you have heard something, Sally. I'm so sorry this is dragging on so. It must weigh heavily on your heart.

Alice Band said...

Oh my God...

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