Imagine youʼve been raped or tortured. Forced to kill someone or watch your parents murdered. You flee your country for a place of safety. But people call you a liar and want to send you back. Now imagine all this happens when youʼre just 14 years old.
A handwritten sign stuck to the door says please be quiet, there is a session in progress. Through the door you can hear a murmuring adult voice. It sounds gentle and reassuring. There is a pause and then a younger, less certain voice speaks. Another pause and the conversation continues.
This side of the door, in the room doubling up as reception area and lounge, a young man is doing some research on a computer. Another teenager, impeccably polite, is asking whether anyone would like a cup of tea.
The air of calm is interrupted when a new arrival announces that he’s just passed his driving test. People emerge from different rooms to congratulate him. Their pride in his achievement is clear, the smiles infectious.
If it wasn’t for the murmured conversation still going on behind that door, you could mistake these rooms just off North London’s busy Holloway Road for a friendly student flat-share – albeit a very tidy one.
But this is the Baobab Centre for Young Survivors in Exile, a charity that helps children who have fled violence in their home countries, in the hope of finding sanctuary here in Britain.
They include Mimi from Eritrea, who escaped to England aged 12 when her father disappeared and her sister was killed. And Fakirzai, smuggled out of Afghanistan when the Taliban murdered his father. And Moses, who was forced to join the same group of rebels who had just brutalised his sister, before he managed to run away.
Wherever their terrifying journeys began, whatever horrors they endured along the way, they all made it to Baobab’s door.Click here to view full story >