In a break between seeing coughs and sore throats, minor injuries sustained from falling from lorries, and muscular pain in the calves from running from the police, I sit on the small examination couch in my caravan with Mustapha my interpreter from Afghanistan who has been in the camp for the past four months and listen to his story told in halting English.
He and his two younger sisters were brought up in a small rural community in Afghanistan by their parents. His father went to work each day in the nearby town where he owned and ran a shop.
While at school one day, when he was aged 17, a cousin came to tell Mustapha that his father had been ‘killed by Government’. This was the first time that Mustapha was aware that his father worked for the Taliban.
That evening Taliban representatives came to the house to persuade Mustapha to join them and the jihad. He refused and said that he wanted to be a farmer and support his mother and sisters.
“If you don’t come with us we will come and take you by force.” His mother wept and told him he must not go. “I have lost your father. I can’t lose you too!”
That night near the Mosque he heard shooting between the Taliban and Government forces. In the morning, on his way to school he was arrested by the police and accused of being a Taliban insurgent. He denied the charge at which point he was beaten by the police with clubs and with their rifles and thrown into a cell.
In the meantime he heard that the Taliban had come looking for him at home where his mother told them that Mustapha had been taken by the police. They refused to believe her and burnt the house down.
Mustapha was transferred under police escort to a local hospital for treatment to his back following his injuries. (He shows me the scars across his back). He remained in custody in hospital for three weeks until an uncle came with a lawyer and an ‘agent’ and told Mustapha that his best course of action was to leave Afghanistan.
His uncle said he would sell some land the pay the agent. Mustapha was given $1,000 and taken to the border from where he travelled overland to Greece. He spent the next seven years in Greece living rough, getting jobs here and there. “But”, he said, “the Greek people were bad. They did not like migrants. So I came to Calais. I have been here for four months. Please help me to get to England……”