SANGATTE : THE ENGLISH DREAM

 

Eleven years ago, Akbar, Dana, their 4-year-old son Meissam and daughter Sunita who was still a baby, spent five months in Sangatte camp. Now British citizens, they live a normal life on the other side of the Channel.

The family has just moved to the countryside near Birmingham.

In years gone by, they were undocumented and were constantly hiding to escape from the police in the many countries they crossed. Akbar the Iranian and Dana the Romanian met nearly twenty years ago in Bucharest, where the young man had found refuge after leaving his country where he was persecuted for trading in cassettes, the cassettes being a bit too western for the authorities' liking.

Out of love for this young computer sciences student, Akbar the Muslim did not hesitate to convert to Orthodoxy to be able to marry her.

Their son Meissam was born in 1996 in Romania but Akbar was denied his political refugee status and the government ordered his expulsion. Unable to go back to Iran, where he is considered an infidel and would therefore be threatened with death, Akbar has no other choice than to run away again.

But this time, he is not alone.

During the journey, Dana gives birth to their little daughter Sunita, with the help of a woman somewhere in the Dutch countryside. Akbar is arrested in Hungary and spends nearly three months in a detention centre.

After wandering for 4 months, they meet again safe and sound in Sangatte. Here, in the Red Cross centre, Akbar sees his baby for the first time. For 5 months, the family wanders miles through fields, parking lots, and motorway service areas, in the hope of crossing to England.

At last, on a November night in 2011, their smuggler hides them in the back of a truck headed for Birmingham.

Sangatte, November 2011.

 Akbar, Dana and their two children Meissam (4 years old) and Sunita (6 months) try every day to cross illegally to England.

Sangatte, November 2011. Akbar, Dana and their two children Meissam (4 years old) and Sunita (6 months) try every day to cross illegally to England.

Sangatte, November 2011.

 The family will spend more than 5 months in the Red Cross centre before managing to cross the Channel, hidden under a truck.

Sangatte, November 2011. The family will spend more than 5 months in the Red Cross centre before managing to cross the Channel, hidden under a truck.

Birmingham, November 2012.

 Successful integration.
Now, as British citizens, they live a normal life on the other side of the Channel.

Birmingham, November 2012. Successful integration. Now, as British citizens, they live a normal life on the other side of the Channel.

Dudley, November 2012.

 Sunita, 11 years old, is studying in a Catholic private school.

Dudley, November 2012. Sunita, 11 years old, is studying in a Catholic private school.

Birmingham, November 2012.
 Meissam, 16 years old, wants to go to university to study medicine.

Birmingham, November 2012. Meissam, 16 years old, wants to go to university to study medicine.

Dudley, November 2012.
 Dana is studying law and dreams of becoming a lawyer.

Dudley, November 2012. Dana is studying law and dreams of becoming a lawyer.

Dudley, November 2012.
 Meissam and Sunita are bright students.

Dudley, November 2012. Meissam and Sunita are bright students.

Dudley, November 2012.

Dudley, November 2012.

Dudley, November 2012.

Dudley, November 2012.

Dudley, November 2012.
 The family was able to obtain this house thanks to Dudley Town Council's social housing programme.

Dudley, November 2012. The family was able to obtain this house thanks to Dudley Town Council's social housing programme.

Dudley, November 2012.

Dudley, November 2012.

Dudley, November 2012.
 Akbar has been doing all sorts of odd jobs since he arrived in England. He often works more than 14 hours a day to earn a living for his family.

Dudley, November 2012. Akbar has been doing all sorts of odd jobs since he arrived in England. He often works more than 14 hours a day to earn a living for his family.

Dudley, November 2012.
 After living in a high-rise, today they are moving to a house belonging to Dudley Town Council.

Dudley, November 2012. After living in a high-rise, today they are moving to a house belonging to Dudley Town Council.

Birmingham, November 2012.

Birmingham, November 2012.

Birmingham, November 2012.

Birmingham, November 2012.

Birmingham, November 2012.

Birmingham, November 2012.

Dudley, November 2012.

Dudley, November 2012.

Dudley, November 2012.

Dudley, November 2012.

Dudley, November 2012.

Dudley, November 2012.

Kavus had to flee Iran in 2000 because his pamphlets against the regime had angered the authorities.

In 2001, he spent one single night in Sangatte and had the rare opportunity to cross the Channel during his first attempt. With a smuggler and five other migrants, Kavus walked six kilometres from Sangatte to Coquelles to get into the Eurotunnel restricted cargo area closed to the public. He moved around on all fours to avoid infrared cameras. He then hid in pipes to check for an approaching train that would finally slow down. The next day, after spending more than twelve hours lying low in his hole, he jumps into a wagon before disappearing to England.

 

Today, he keeps on writing poems in Persian, although he has lost hope of seeing them published. His dreams of becoming a journalist or an archaeologist are long gone. He works in a saddlery making leather interiors for luxury English cars and earns €230 a week. He keeps €100 for rent.

He lives alone, but dreams of starting a family one day.

Sangatte. July 2001.
 With a smuggler and five other migrants, Kavus made it to England that night.

Sangatte. July 2001. With a smuggler and five other migrants, Kavus made it to England that night.

London, November 2012.

London, November 2012.

Wolverhampton, November 2012.

Wolverhampton, November 2012.

Wolverhampton, November 2012.

Wolverhampton, November 2012.

Wolverhampton, November 2012.

Wolverhampton, November 2012.

Wolverhampton, November 2012.

Wolverhampton, November 2012.

Wolverhampton, November 2012.

Wolverhampton, November 2012.

Wolverhampton, November 2012.

Wolverhampton, November 2012.