A desperate search
for safety

Bilal’s story

Alone and in danger

Bilal was just 14 when he escaped the war in Syria. He survived the treacherous journey across Europe, only to find himself in a wretched camp in Calais, separated from his family.

He was one of hundreds of refugee children stuck in Calais when they should have been living safely with their family members already in the UK. Thanks to Unicef campaigners like you, the UK government has now agreed to reunite all these children with their families.

This is Bilal’s story in his own words.

My home, Daraa, was one of the first cities involved in the uprising in Syria. Bombs landed on my street. On 15 January 2015, I ran away from the war. I was 14 years old.

Leaving my home town

I left everything in Syria and didn’t pack a lot as I didn’t think I would be away for very long. The bracelet I wear belonged to a friend who was shot four years ago. I took it from him – from his body – and have worn it every day since then.

I had to leave the country as otherwise I would have to join the military. And in the army you have to kill someone or be killed.

My family were in Syria but I wanted to reach my brother who was in the UK, because I thought I would be safe with him. So I started a long journey on my own.”

Bilal wears a bracelet belonging to a friend who died in the conflict
Unicef/2016/Jones

On 13 September, asylum seekers from Syria, including a young boy, arrive on the shores of the Greek island of Lesbos.
I was one of the children you see on the boats from Turkey. I thought I was going to die. On the journey from Turkey to Greece there were 45 people on a tiny boat. There were patrols looking for boats so they would keep stopping. At one point there was a hole in the boat and we were so scared but the smuggler refused to stop.

Life in the camp

“When I made it to France, I had to wait in the Calais Jungle for seven months, even though the law says I can be with my brother in the UK. It was a living hell.

“Every day people would try to find ways of leaving. My friends and I tried to get onto a train to get away but I had to watch while two friends died under the train.

“The boys who went under the train were also Syrians from Daraa. It was at about 1am and I’d only been in Calais for about 10 days. We got to the train station and one of the boys jumped onto the train and was electrocuted. Another was hit by a train. We just stared at each other for about 15 minutes.”

Watch Bilal's true story of what happened when he risked everything

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Safe in the UK

“I’m safe now. I feel so lucky to be with my brother in the UK. I am learning English and then I want to study again.

“But every day I think about my friends who are still stuck in Calais, or other children in places like Italy or Greece, and the worried families they have waiting for them in the UK. It is taking too long and too many children are suffering.”

Bilal finally reached the UK and wants to help others stuck in Calais
Unicef/2016/Jones

REFUGEE CHILDREN SHOULD BE WITH THEIR FAMILIES

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times every week, children in Calais risked their lives trying to reach family in the UK

Help stop these dangerous journeys

How you can help

Bilal’s story is shocking, but it is not unique. He was one of more than 500 children in Calais who were waiting to be reunited with their family in the UK. Thanks to Unicef campaigners like you, the UK government has committed that every child in Calais who has family in the UK will be brought to safety.

But we must not stop here. There are many more children in Italy, Greece and across Europe who are still waiting. Every day they wait is another day they are alone and in danger. We must ensure all refugee children are able to reach their families safely.

Help reunite refugee children with their families now

Add your name to the petition

Join 165,000 campaigners who have helped Unicef UK to put pressure on the government to speed up the process for these children.

We’ve already seen results. Thanks to your campaigning, hundreds of children are now safe in the UK. Together, we can reach hundreds more.