On Sunday morning, I go looking for my friend Sadiq who I promised to visit that day. I go to one of the huts where I think he might be, and one of the men invites me in. ‘Come in, come in’, he says as he begins to make tea on a giant kettle in the middle of the hut. I stand awkwardly at the door for a while, not wanting to intrude and equally not wanting to reject their offer of hospitality. Two of the boys in the tent, both aged 15, are still in their sleeping bags. As I step in, they get up and roll the sleeping bags into neat bundles, pushing them to the side of the walls to make seats. I begin to chat to one of them, Jamshed, interested to know how he made it to Calais and how he plans to get to the UK. When my friend Sadiq arrives, he helps translate and we work to patch together a brief conversation.
Jamshed is polite and smiley, and doesn’t seem to mind my questioning. I begin by asking where his parents are, and he tells me that they’re still in Afghanistan but that his uncle is in the UK. He arrived by himself to the camp and has been there now for 4 months…
Why did you leave Afghanistan?
There is a fight going on, there is no education, nothing. So my parents told me, ‘go’.
Were you in danger in Afghanistan?
Were you at school?
Because there is a fight going on, schools have become closed.
Specifically, who is the fight between in your area of Afghanistan?
Taliban, Daesh (ISIS), and the Afghanistan government…
Do you miss home?
Yes, how could I not? Every night I am talking with my parents. I miss them, all of them.
Do you have brothers and sisters back in Afghanistan?
Yes, four brothers and five sisters.
Why didn’t they come across with you?
My brothers and sisters they’re all so small. My sisters that are bigger, they’re married. Because I’m quite old, my parents allowed me to go: ‘Go, make a life there’, they said, so I’ve come here for a better life.
Do you want to come to the UK, or just Europe generally?
No, just the UK. I don’t have anyone in France or Germany, just the UK. When I reach England, I’ll stay with my uncle.
Where does your uncle live in the UK?
I’m not sure, Manchester I think.
Because you’re under 18, will the UK government take you to the country legally?
Actually I’ve already applied for a legal application, but I’m not sure if it worked. Nobody’s telling me what’s going on. I’m waiting for them but I don’t know how long that’ll be.
I’m not sure if I can get across legally. But I jump on trucks to try and make it across most nights.
If you do get to the UK, what would you do when you arrive?
When I reach the UK, obviously, first I will go to the police, second call my parents, and say ‘yes I’m here’.
What would the police do with you?
I don’t know. When I reach there, then I’ll know. I don’t know, seriously.
What would happen if you get to the UK and you don’t like it?
Actually, you’re going to the UK to be with your parents or family. That’s why we’re going to there. And, um, one thing more: English is very easy, whereas when you stay in here, French is very difficult for us, and education is difficult. But when we reach the UK, we know English little bit, and it’ll become better, and that’ll solve our problem. That’s why we’re going to the UK.
What would you want to study in the UK?
I really enjoy IT. I’d like to be an IT manager.
What else do you hope for from the UK?
I’m really interested in my education. First, I want to complete my education and then I want to help the people. I want to help Afghani people to become educated; especially Afghani people, my people.
What were your hobbies in Afghanistan?
I really love playing cricket. Today is the England v West Indies final!
After this, the conversation in the tent turns to cricket and everyone begins to join in. When I leave to get back to the medical caravans, Jamshed gives me a hug and smiles shyly. I find myself wishing really hard that he’ll make it to the UK, that he’ll get an education and one day be able to return to the country that it’s clear he loves so much.