Extract # 1
A. is a refugee who tries to take the equivalent of his Iranian diploma at Brighton University. It was more than a year since we had met.
‘Why do you want to take my picture? Usually, when you say the word “refugee”, people get scared.’ He carried on: ‘I don’t want to be photographed here. Let’s go somewhere nice. I know some place.’
Two days later, we drove out of town. It was a sunny morning, early summer. After a short while we parked, and started walking on a little path across the fields.
‘So, did you manage to find an accommodation?’ I asked him.
‘No, not yet… I have about twenty days to leave… I don’t know yet what I’m gonna do.’
We carried on walking to the top of the hill. From the distance, we could see the town, bathed with sun, and the sea.
‘It’s beautiful, isn’t it!’ he exclaimed. I smiled and nodded.
After a while, we walked back and decided to stop by the coffee shop before leaving. We bought two coffees and sat down. There was no-one on the terrace yet.
‘How is it going at university? You’re almost at the end now, no?’ I asked.
He lit up a cigarette.
‘It’s difficult. I cannot focus.’ he told me. ‘When you think you have solved all the problems, put a bit of order in your life and that you’re ready to face up again, then something else happens… You know, when you feel low, everyday… Do you know these feelings?’
He remained silent for a while, smoking and staring at the landscape before us. Then he said:
‘I feel guilty... I should have done better.’
Extract # 2
The story that follows relates one episode of I.'s travel from Iran to the UK. It takes place in France in 2003.
‘What are you doing here ?’
‘I came to visit France for a bit, and then I go back to Syria.’
‘Do you know it's not a very good place to hang around’ they said. They were very polite. I said:
‘No, I didn't know. I was just curious.’
‘You should go to the town center, it's much nicer’ they told me.
I said ‘ok ', they gave me back my passport and went. I carried on walking... but two minutes after, they came back. There was nothing I could do. I couldn't run away, but if I stopped, they would arrest me. Still, I just stopped. They got off the car and asked me:
‘Excuse-me, where would you like to stay tonight?’
‘I'm gonna stay in a hotel.’
‘Oh, I don't know, I will look for one.’
‘Do you have enough money to stay in a hotel?’
‘Of course I do!
‘Excuse-me Sir, but could we see the money?’
So, I took out my forty or fifty euros out of my pocket and started to look in my bag, pretending I had more. But then, they took my bag and took everything out of it. They found the half of the sandwich, but no money. They turned me over and two guys handcuffed me.
They put me in jail. I was thriving for a cigarette. I asked the guy:
‘Please, can I just smoke a cigarette?’ The guy was nice. He said:
‘Ok, but you can smoke just one.’ I smoked three of them. That night, I slept wonderfully.'