One Illegal Immigrant

We see them on the news. Hundreds of illegal, would-be immigrants trying to get to Britain’s bountiful shores. In 2015 they filled the camp at Calais known as “The Jungle”. 

We saw them as we left Calais on our journey by coach to Boulogne-sur-Mer  with a party of people from Stilton’s Twinning Association. They were running about on the the road leading to the channel ports and tunnel. We were travelling the other way.

As residents of a small island off the coast of mainland Europe, we tend to feel threatened. People say: “We’re already overcrowded.” and “We can’t take endless numbers of strangers into our tiny island.” and “They only want our benefits, housing and a car”.

Library photo of immigrants at Calais
News photo of immigrants at Calais

It’s a worrying situation and, reading the newspapers makes it feel more like an invasion than a crisis. But what happens when you meet one of these illegals face-to-face? It happened to us on our return from a coach trip to Boulogne in July in 2015.

On our return journey, we arrived at the port of Calias without having seen anyone on the roads. After our outward journey we’d expected to see them again but htere were none.

Once inside the port, our coach was searched by officers with torches who peered into the engine compartment and other places as the driver lifted various access flaps. And onto the ferry we drove, via passport control. All was normal.

At Dover, we reboarded the coach and set off, heading for the A20 and then cruising along it at 70mph. We made good progress along the M20, the M25, through the Dartford Tunnel and on up the M11 to Stansted where we pulled into Birchanger Services for a break.

Banging and Shouting
As the coach came to a halt we heard shouts and knocking from under the floor towards the rear. Gathering outside, around the back wheel, we watched in amazement as a rather dusty young man crawled out!


We’ve no idea where he got on the coach. Possibly he transferred from another vehicle on the car deck of the ferry? It was clear however that he had been clinging to the top of the coach’s rear axle staring down at the motorway rushing below him at 70mph - and he’d been there for probably an hour and a half.

Although we thought he might make a bid for freedom, he sat quietly until a police officer was able to come and take charge of him. It seems there is a well-oiled procedure for live immigrants (the officer also said that one of his jobs is sorting out the mess when they fall off their stowaway vehicles).

Seeing this incredibly brave - and foolish - young man, we realised that this is not a story of mass immigration and benefit-claming but a very human tragedy. What was the journey had he made before climbing under our coach? What family had he left behind; and what had driven him to abandon his town and country of birth? War? Famine? Persecution? As a non-English speaker, all we could discover was that he had come from the Sudan.

We had a quick whip-round and collected £80 for him to help him wherever he went next. The officer assured us that this was now his possession and would be respected as such.

young sudanese man

The young man who stowed away beneath our coach

And so we continued on our way and have no idea where his life took him. We often wonder . . .

Would You Risk It?
The reason so many people are fleeing to Europe is, of course, because life in their war-torn countries has become almost impossible. Cruel factions control the lives of ordinary people in ways we cannot begin to imagine. And our highly valued freedom of speech is but a distant dream for them.

Personally, I don’t believe that they really want to leave the counties of their birth. I think that, under these circulmstances anyone would try to escape to a country where people are free to make their own choices, be valued, and make a better life for themselves and the people they love.

With very few exceptions, I don’t believe they are coming in order to sit around living on benefits. I would be willing to bet that the vast majority wish to work hard, using skills they already have, and contribute to society in a way that we all respect.

And for many, their heart will still lie in their country of birth. If proper governance was installed there, many would return to make their world a better place.

© Brian Smith 2015