At sixteen years old Ellen left Eritrea to pursue her dream of completing her education. With cousins living in the UK it seemed an obvious choice and she set out on a harrowing journey towards a new life. After months of deplorable conditions and ill treatment she hoped she would be granted entrance into the UK under the Dubs Amendment, which provided a way for unaccompanied minors to start a new life free of fear and persecution. Sadly, the UK government have reneged on the promise they made to these children. Ellen’s dreams have been destroyed by the decision and her situation has become even more precarious and dangerous.

Ellen left Eritrea and embarked on a frightening journey. From Eritrea she made her way to Sudan and then to Libya where she stayed four months. It was there that another group ‘conquered’ the people smugglers with whom she had entrusted her life. Ellen was held ransom while the new smugglers increased their price. Finally she made it across the Mediterranean to Rome then onto Marseille, Paris and finally to Isberg.

Isberg is the definition of desolation. As an informal refugee camp one hour from Calais it receives little support and even less media attention. The camp is predominantly Eritrean and largely run by people smugglers who have a ‘hold’ over the lorry parks. It is renowned for having terrible conditions and being particularly dangerous for women. Ellen says, “It’s very hard here, very bad. But I don’t have any other choice. I am with one friend [female], my other friends are all gone, some stayed in France and some are in Holland. We have a tent and there are some shelters. It’s so cold.” At only seventeen, she is alone and frightened with no way of improving her situation.

She has been in Isberg for around one month. Prior to that she was at CAOMIE (Reception and Orientation Centre for Isolated Foreign Minors), “They had translators on the telephone and even in Calais they had a translator there. They told me it would be possible to go to the UK. [Under the Dubs Amendment]. I have cousins there, and friends. I speak English and I want to improve. I dream of continuing my schooling. Now, they refused me and I don’t understand why.” Stranded in a cold, inhospitable and dangerous place Ellen waits, unsure of what will happen, her cousins in the UK distraught and confused.

Ellen had been assured that she qualified for entry into the UK; her dream was within reach. She waited three months before being notified that it was no longer an option, “I don’t have any plans to go to another country, I only want to go to England to finish my schooling and live with my cousins and friends. They broke their promise and they wasted our time. It’s so hard to go back to here [Isberg] after going to the CAOMIE”. Ellen’s family made it to Kampala where they are applying for entry to Canada. The process can take up to four years but Ellen wants nothing more than to finish school. The route to Canada would make that impossible.

On the 25th February 2017 Ellen turned seventeen. She spent her birthday far from friends and family, alone and at risk, her dreams in tatters, her future uncertain, “There is little chance for me, is there any hope now? I don’t know what can I do for my future.”

Safe Passage has been in contact with Ellen since she was in the accommodation centre. Support was provided to her cousins in the UK with information from Safe Passage lawyers about how they might appeal Ellen’s negative decision from the UK Home Office. We have also suggested how they could contact their MP to raise awareness of Ellen’s vulnerable situation now the Dubs Amendment is due to close. Safe Passage is also on stand-by to refer Ellen to French legal support should she decide to claim asylum France.


Adnan's journey to the UK

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Adnan was just 14 when he made up his mind to leave Syria and make his way to Calais – the only chance he had to join his surviving relative, his brother, in the UK. For much of his five months in the Calais “jungle” camp he was entirely alone.



Find out about Ellen’s story

Jabir and his cousin were just 14 when they were forced to flee their home in Afghanistan to try and reach safety with their Aunt in the UK. Life in the Calais camp was lonely and could be violent but now he is settled at school in England and making new friends.



Find out about Ellen’s story

Sixteen-year-old Tarek travelled from Syria to Calais alone to join his friend and find his Uncle in the UK, leaving his mother and unborn sister behind in Syria. He spent six long months in the camp waiting for a chance to get his passage to safety.