It’s a very long scenario that has gone on in Kuwait. We have always lived there – my family, my father, my grandfather, my entire family, all the roots, we’re from Kuwait. There was a time when it came to get registered for citizenship, passport, ID card etc., they said ‘no we don’t have any proof that you are Kuwaiti’. There are many people like us – they say we don’t have any roots in Kuwait so they reject us. We can’t access education, we can’t work, we can’t use the hospitals, we can’t do anything. We don’t have any rights.
In Kuwait I didn’t know anything about England. I didn’t have any knowledge of other countries apart from Kuwait, Iraq and Turkey. We couldn’t get any education to learn about other countries. A friend of my father told me ‘I would like to help you get away from Kuwait because of the harassment you are receiving, the lack of dignity and rights, and also to be able to help your disabled child’. He told me ‘I will help you get to a country where you can get medical treatment for your daughter’.
When we reached Iraq, we were sleeping at the border and they didn’t give us even a cup of water. When we went to Turkey they put us in camps like a jail. 12 months we were in a jail. Greece was the same. They kept us in a camp, we couldn’t go out. We couldn’t even reassure our family back home that we had arrived safely and were alive.
We stayed in Turkey for about a year and a half. We would have stayed in Turkey if I could find a job and settle there, but they wouldn’t allow us because we are refugees. They didn’t want to help us to work. No one helps anyone over there.
We slept on the streets in Turkey without food, without shelter, without anything. The police would come and tell us ‘come on, get up, you need to move on’. We were living on the street, where were we supposed to go? To the next road? We were already on the street and they kept telling us to move. It was really awful and if, for example, we were sleeping in the park, a drunk person or drug user could attack us and steal our belongings. The police wouldn’t listen to us if we reported it. There was really too much harassment and racism.
We tried to flee from Turkey to Greece by sea so many times. We had to swim sometimes.
To get from Greece to Europe, we tried to go across the border. We had to sleep in the forest for ten days. It was very difficult and terrifying. We tried many times to get across the border but we always failed, until someone helped us travel by airplane.
I remember that we used seven or eight airplanes. We kept travelling from one country to another. If you ask me the name of the countries, I couldn’t tell you. For example, when we reached one destination the person that was with us would say ‘stay here, stay inside the airport’ and he would tell us ‘I will come at 5.30 to take you on another trip’ and so on.
When we came to the UK, they took us to a hostel. They gave us food, they gave us money. They reassured us. To be honest, I couldn’t get care for my disabled daughter in any other country. I was just carrying her and it wasn’t easy. For three years and a half, I was just carrying my daughter in my arms. We were given a wheelchair our second day in the UK. I kept saying ‘OK when we’re finished with it where do we return it?’ they said ‘this wheelchair is for your daughter, keep it until we can get a proper chair for her’.
Now we are much better than before. All four kids are attending school, which is the most important thing that I had dreamed of in my whole life. The other dream that came true is that for the first time I am able to learn something. I didn’t get any sort of education in my life. Now my wife and me are attending English lessons once a week. For my disabled daughter, they are going to do the assessment for her because she has special needs, she is at a special school. If I go to the market or the shop, I have started building a little bit of communication with the people in order to ask for something very simple or in order to pay. I have started being better than I was before because of the education I am getting.
My Refugee Council therapist helped me a lot.
He showed me a very nice way to live my life. He helped me, sometimes by directing me to organisations and with things like links and arranging for interpreters when I needed something, asking for things for the house. I can’t tell you enough how much he helped me.
He taught me a lot of strategies within our therapy sessions. Each session was one hour, within those sessions he really focused on how to help me overcome the past. He helped me with strategies like breathing techniques. He taught me a lot of things like going for a walk for a little bit to take all the negative feelings away from me. He taught me lots of things and I still do them when I feel pressure. The most important thing he taught me is to be patient.
People here are very kind, very merciful and very helpful. They are a loving people. Everyone is friendly and nice. The children have found some happiness. I have started seeing smiles on the faces of my children. This is something I will never forget in my entire life.
Faisal’s name and picture have been changed to protect his real identity.
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