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4 September 2008

“My dreams are not important to anyone”

'Our first night in Yarl's Wood was just terrible. We couldn't eat and we couldn't sleep. There were

By Staff Blogger

Jasmine came to the UK with her mother from Cameroon in 2002, when she was seven years old. Her mother had been imprisoned in Cameroon because of the political activities of her husband. But their first asylum application was made with Jasmine’s stepfather, and automatically refused when his was refused, even though they were no longer living with him. They were held in Yarl’s Wood for two months and taken to the airport for deportation on one occasion. After they were released from Yarl’s Wood, the case was heard again and they were given leave to remain in the UK.

My name is Jasmine and I’m 13 years old. I live with my mum and my little sister, Jessica, who is five years old. I was 12 when all this happened, and my sister was only four. Well, it all started one morning. My best friend was sleeping over at our flat in Middlesbrough, and we were having fun just like other kids. I knew my mum was worried about our stepdad finding us, but I didn’t know she also had something else on her mind. I didn’t know about our asylum case.

I was asleep when I heard a noise. I thought it was Mum coming from the shop or something, so I went back to sleep. But after a while I heard my mum crying, so my friend and I went to check what was going on. I saw a policeman stood in front of my bedroom door. He said to me, “Do you know why I’m here?” I said no in a confused way. He said, “I’m here because your mum’s asylum case got refused.” I still didn’t get it. Then I saw my mum crying her eyes out and rolling on the floor.

Then he asked me to go and pack my things because we are going to a family centre. I asked, how long for? He said he didn’t know. I asked him, can I have a shower first, and he told me that there was no time and I had to be quick and pack some of my things and my little sister’s things as well. They took us into a van. It was like a dream, or as if they were making a sad movie. Me and my mum were crying, and I reached out to hug her and tried not to cry for my little sister’s sake.

The van was nasty and smelly. There were bars and glass separating them from us: it was like we were some kind of disease. We were driving for hours and they were in front laughing and acting like there was nothing wrong.

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Then my mum start talking and saying things to me – that if she died I must never forget that I had a mother that loved me, that she did everything to save me from the horrible life that she had, and that me and my sister must always love each other because that is the only thing we might have left in this world. Then she was all quiet, and then I saw she was trying to kill herself. She had the seat belt around her neck and she was trying to choke herself. I had to bang on the glass then and they did stop the van for a bit.

Our first night in Yarl’s Wood was just terrible. We couldn’t eat and we couldn’t sleep. There were special people there to look after my mum to stop her trying to kill herself again. I thought, if you are scared she will die, why won’t you let us stay in this country? Because if she goes back to Cameroon she will die.

As the weeks went by I was asking myself: Are we going to stay in there for the rest of our lives? I was sitting in those rooms all day with no proper air to breathe. One day they took us to the airport to send us back to Cameroon. They put my mum on the aeroplane and put handcuffs on her. They told her they would inject her to make her sleep if she made a fuss. But I stood outside the plane and started screaming. I wasn’t going to go to that place where I knew we would not be safe and in the end, they took us off the plane because I made so much noise. They took us back to Yarl’s Wood and then after that my mum managed to get a judicial review put through. After we were released we got leave to remain. But I don’t think I can ever forget what happened to us there.

You don’t know how it feels to be a kid full of dreams and to feel that nobody cares, that the dreams are not important to anyone. My little sister Jessica is four years old. You think, well, she won’t understand, but in her world Jessica knew what was happening. She told my mum she hated the police because, “One morning they came to arrest us and you started to cry.” She said to my mum, “When I will be old I will fight for you, I will fight for you when they come to arrest you again.”