About this project


Lost stories of Europe

We are gathering stories, life experiences and memories of refugee children. Stories revealing their daily life... lost in Europe. These children are completely on their own. 

We want to open eyes and raise public awareness about these missing kids. We will also call out to the European Union to take its responsibility. Because every child deserves to be safe.

Gulwali Passarlay

Gulwali Passarlay left Afghanistan aged 12, and it took him over a year to make it to Britain. He was separated from his brother almost immediately by the smugglers, so had to make the gruelling journey on his own. He walked for days, hid in the back of lorries, jumped out of moving trains, and spent two weeks in an adult prison in Turkey before finally arriving on the Turkish coast. There, he was taken to a boat big enough for 20 people. There were 120 of them inside.

"The boat broke down," he said. "This was the first time I'd seen the sea. I was terrified. I said to God, 'I don't want to die here. Not here in the Mediterranean. My Mum will never know whether I'm dead or alive'." Minutes before the boat sank, the coastguard found them and took them to Greece. Gulwali was handed over to the police, then the army. His fingerprints were taken and then he was given the devastating news: he'd have to leave within a month or be deported.

By then he had found out his brother was in Britain, and so he did what thousands of other children have done. He left the refugee camp in Greece and disappeared. "We'd walk through the railway lines so the police wouldn't see us," he said. "We kept a very low profile." Other children he knew went further to avoid being caught. They burnt their fingertips or cut them off entirely so that if they were found, they couldn't be identified and sent back home.

Eventually Gulwali made it to Calais where he made dozens of attempts to get to Britain. One day he got lucky: he crept into a lorry carrying bananas and made it into the UK. It took Gulwali five years to get refugee status. He started school, went to university and, last year, wrote a book about his journey, The Lightless Sky.

But for every one who makes it, there are thousands who never get to this point. Like Gulwali, they feel safer disappearing than going through Europe's asylum system.

Source: BBC

Mohamed Hajy

When 15-year-old Mohamed Hajy tried to reach Greece by boat in January 2016, he nearly drowned. The inflatable boat he shared with 39 other desperate Syrians began to deflate, still a mile from Greek shores, and he was saved from death only at the last minute by a charity-run rescue boat. Had the rescuers arrived a few moments later, they might all have ended up in the icy water. Most of them couldn’t swim – and were wearing fake lifejackets that wouldn’t have saved them.



Photo: The boat on which 15-year-old Mohamed Hajy was hoping to travel to Greece. It started to deflate and the 40 refugees on board had to be rescued. © Sean Smith for the Guardian

This was, nevertheless, scarcely worse a fate than the one he’s fleeing from, Hajy says later. In Syria, he was caught between being conscripted into the Syrian army and the advances of Islamic State. In Turkey, where he fled to first, he was forced into child labour in order to survive.

Safely aboard the rescue boat, Hajy holds up a video of himself in a factory, hard at work on a sewing machine. “I was just doing this every day for 14 hours a day,” he says, “with a boss going, ‘Faster, faster.’” All of this was in contravention of the UN’s convention on the rights of the child, giving Hajy ample legal reason to seek a better life elsewhere. Denied his rights in Turkey and Syria, travelling to Europe was therefore an easy choice – even though it meant risking death off the Greek coast, and doing so with no adult to look after him.

“In Turkey, I had no future,” Hajy says. “Life was awful. My education was on the sewing machine. And I did not want to be doing that for the rest of my life.”

The Guardian