This represents the long time I spent in prison in my own country. From one prison to another.
Mohammed is 28. He is from Eritrea, an East African country that is 50% Muslim and 50% Christian.
“Back home, I had been studying to become a vet for two years. Then I was forced by the government to do compulsory military training and community service for one year. When finished, I went back to study for my third year. But then I was enlisted to do military training again. They told me couldn’t return to my studies and had to stay in training indefinitely.
The training was difficult, working 10-12 hours a day with no rest. I tried to escape and went home illegally. But I was caught and sent to prison, where I was in solitary confinement for six months. I was very lonely. I was lucky, though: my friend who also escaped was caught and was never seen again.”
It was a very difficult journey to make crossing the desert.
“They let me go home for one month so I could visit my mother. I didn’t want to go back to military service after this, so I decided to leave the country.
“I went to Sudan first, where I stayed in a refugee camp for one month. But I didn’t speak the language so it was difficult for me, although the conditions were 100 times better than they are in Calais. It was my dream to go to the UK, as I expected a better life there.
“Hitching lifts on cars and trucks, travelling through the desert was very difficult. Some people from different countries fight and kill each other When I got to Libya, I spent one month there earning enough money to pay smugglers $1,600 for a boat to Italy. There was a storm on the crossing and I was very frightened. From Italy I went by train to Germany, from there we went to Paris, then I arrived in Calais in November. The whole journey took three months.”
Inside my tent we use candles, there are no generators. The camp gets set on fire all of the time.
“I have one meal per day provided by the volunteer organisation Salaam. I have two pairs of clothes, one that I was wearing when I arrived and one that the volunteers have given me. There are some basic cold water showers and toilets in camp, but they are not clean.
“I spend my days reading and studying. I just want to learn, as the opportunity was taken away from me in Eritrea. I sleep from 10pm to 8am, but sometimes police demonstrations keep me awake. They throw tear gas and sometimes I can’t sleep.”
People are breaking their legs trying to jump the fences. There is no other way, no chance.
“I share my tent with one friend. There were four of us (all from Eritrea) in it when I arrived, but two of them have made it to England. I am really happy for them.
“I have tried to cross the channel about 20-30 times. It is a three-hour walk there and back every night. It’s very difficult to climb over the fences, especially if you are short like me! There are lots of security helicopters and lights. I was caught on a train once and was taken to prison for five days. I was treated well – prison was better conditions than the camp, as I got three meals a day and was protected from the rain.”
I am afraid of having my photo taken because if the Eritrean government see it, it will be a problem for my family.
“I will always have hope. I will keep trying to make it to the UK. But because of the weather, some will die here, as it’s so bad. In the Jungle, who is responsible for us? Because we are illegal and have no passports.
“I want to become legal in the UK. I want to continue my studies and become a vet. I will do any type of work to save money and would like to live in a big city like London or Manchester.
“I am afraid of having my photo taken because if the Eritrean government see it, it will be a problem for my family back home. I never feel regret for leaving Eritrea, because the political situation is getting worse and worse. If I went back to Eritrea, no-one would see me ever again.”
I finally made it to the UK
“I finally made it to the UK in December 2015. I claimed asylum and was sent to Glasgow.
“I spent Christmas Day with Stuart, a volunteer from Calais, and his family. On New Year’s Eve I went to Edinburgh to have dinner with Clare, who ran the photography project I took part in. We watched the Hogmanay fireworks together.
“I live in a hostel in Glasgow with other refugees and am studying English. I have completed my asylum interview and am waiting to hear about my ‘right to remain’. I would like to go back to university to finish my veterinary degree.
“I like the UK very much. The Scottish people are very warm and welcoming, but I’m still having trouble with the accent!”
“Unfortunately my claim for asylum in the UK has been rejected. I am appealing against this decision, but in the meantime I have been granted ‘humanitarian protection’, as Eritrea is considered an ‘unsafe’ country to return to at the moment. This means I can work and study in the UK for the next five years.”