Benjamin Zephaniah

Refugee Boy

Lucía Perea Hernánhas quoted3 months ago
in the cab, whispering the words as he read them: ‘No smok-ing. Li-censed Hack-ney Car-riage. Red light in-di-cates doors are locked. This seat-belt is for your per-son-al safe-ty.’

After a while his attention turned to the road outside, the M4. It was so straight and wide; the ride was so smooth, no potholes, no wild bends, just the sound of the engine and the tyres on the road.

They had travelled for only about seven miles when they turned off the motorway and headed towards the village down Majors Farm Road. It suddenly went quiet; there were very few cars on the road and no farms to be seen, just a few empty fields. As they neared the village, Alem looked towards all the semi-detached houses for any sign of life. He could see the houses but where were the people? All the houses had cars in their driveways, usually two, and many had cats in the windows, but no people. He looked up at the chimneys and wondered what they were there for.

When they entered the village, things became a little busier but still remained very orderly. And now Alem began to see animals; they were only dogs that people had on leads but he was sure that he would soon see the local goats and chickens.

The taxi pulled up outside the hotel. It was an old-fashioned building that looked to Alem more like a big house than a hotel, after all, he had seen the Holiday Inn in Addis Ababa and he thought that was a big skyscraper, so he expected English hotels to be even bigger.

‘Here you are, guvs,’ said the driver, ‘the Palace Hotel, wot a lave
Auksė Tomenkaitėhas quoted4 months ago
do for you, sir?’ he said, towering above both of them.

‘We have a twin room reserved for us. My name is Mr Kelo, I spoke to you on the phone last week.’

The big man flicked through the p
Mehmet Çölaşanhas quoted5 months ago
Besides, I’m not a politician. What interests me is people.
Layla Park-Sahahas quoted5 months ago
As the family lay sleeping, soldiers kicked down the door of the house and entered, waving their rifles around erratically and shouting at the top of their voices. Alem ran into the room where his parents were, to find that they had been dragged out of bed dressed only in their nightclothes, and forced to stand facing the wall.
ibrawa06has quoted6 months ago
the sound of the engine and the tyres on the road.

They had travelled for only about seven miles when they turned off the motorway and headed towards the village down Majors Farm Road. It suddenly went quiet; there were very few cars on the road and no farms to be seen, just a few empty fields. As they neared the village, Alem looked towards all the semi-detached houses for any sign of life. He could see the houses but where were the people? All the houses had cars in their driveways, usually two, and many had cats in the windows, but no people. He looked up at the chimneys and wondered what they were there for.

When they entered the village, things became a little busier but still remained very orderly. And now Alem began to see animals; they were only dogs that people had on leads but he was sure that he would soon see the local goats and chickens.

The taxi pulled up outside the hotel. It was an old-fashioned building that looked to Alem more like a big house than a hotel, after all, he had seen the Holiday Inn in Addis Ababa and he thought that was a big skyscraper, so he expected English hotels to be even bigger.

‘Here you are, guvs,’ said the driver, ‘the Palace Hotel, wot a lavely little ‘ous.’

Alem and his father couldn’t understand what he said, but they knew that they had arrived.

‘I beg your pardon?’ By now Alem’s father had dropped his pseudo-posh accent.

The taxi driver pointed to the house and spoke louder and slower. ‘That is a love-er-ly little house, I said.’

‘Oh, yes,’ replied Alem’s father as he raised the corners of his lips a tiny little bit in order to represent a smile. ‘It is a nice building. How much money shall I pay you?’

‘Eighteen quid and fifty pee, boss.’

It was a family-run three-star hotel with a pub and restaurant. The walls of the reception area were covered with paintings of idyllic English countryside scenes that led all the way up the oak stairs. Alem and his father stood at the desk for a few minutes waiting for someone to come. After checking out all the paintings and reading all the notices, Alem’s father rang the miniature brass bell that was on the reception counter. Immediately a man appeared from the room behind the counter, a very big, bearded man who Alem thought looked very much like the customs officer they had not long left, except this man had a smile and no uniform.

‘What can I do for you, sir?’ he said, towering above both of them.

‘We have a twin room reserved for us. My name is Mr Kelo, I spoke to you on the phone last week.’

The big man flicked through the pages of the registration book on the
ibrawa06has quoted6 months ago
desk until he found the right page. ‘Oh yes, that’s right, Mr Kelo, a twin room for four nights for you and your son,’
ibrawa06has quoted6 months ago
e said. Alem struggled to understand his accent. ‘Did you have a pleasant flight?’

‘Yes; it was a little crowded and we didn’t get much sleep, but it was quite pleasant.’

‘Well, we have given you a room in a very quiet part of the hotel where you can sleep for as long as you like. Even the trains are quiet here. Follow me, I’ll take you there.’

As they walked upstairs to the room, the man kept talking. ‘Only four nights with us?’

‘I’m afraid so,’ said Alem’s father, following behind him.

‘You’ll need more than four days.’

‘Four days is all we have,’ Alem’s father said abruptly.

The big man stopped suddenly, forcing Alem and his father to stop suddenly behind him. ‘I’m just trying to be friendly, sir.’

Alem’s father looked hesitantly towards Alem, then towards the big man. ‘I’m sorry, sir, I’m a bit tired, I think I need some sleep. My apologies. Actually we weren’t sure how long we were going to be staying in the area. I have been told that there are many interesting places to see in England so we may move around a little.’

‘Oh yes, there certainly is much to see,’ said the man, continuing up the stairs. ‘It’s not just England, you know – if you get the chance you should visit S
ibrawa06has quoted6 months ago
cotland. I’ve lived down here for most of my life but I was born in bonnie Scotland. When I want a holiday, where do I go? Scotland, of course. I’ve never forgotten my roots.’

The room was medium-sized and spotless. As the big man was telling his father about checkout and breakfast times, Alem headed straight for the window to see what kind of view they had. Sadly it was just the hotel car park and the backs of some other buildings, and if he put his head right up to the window and moved his eyeballs as far right as they could go, he could just about see a train station.

They spent the evening in the hotel room. Alem’s father was much quieter than usual and spent most of his time reading a London guidebook while Alem watched television. It was Saturday night and most of the television channels were transmitting game shows or dating shows. Alem thought it was all very bizarre. He was trying his best to understand what was being said but most of the time he just couldn’t keep up with the pace of people’s speech. From the moment that he landed he noticed that the English that he was hearing was very different from the English he had been taught at school. The customs officer had sounded different from the taxi driver and on the television everyone seemed to have his or her own accent. When Alem couldn’t take it any longer, he switched off the television and went to look
Sarah Alesshahas quoted7 months ago
ery day I was meeting refugees, and each one of them had a unique and usually terrifying story to tell.

I have seen refugee camps in Gaza, Montenegro and other places around the world, but when I met Million and Dereje Hailemariam, two teenagers who were being denied asylum in Britain, I knew that I had to write a story that would illustrate the suffering and the struggles that many asylum seekers have to endure. Million and Dereje’s parents feared for the lives of their boys; they did not want them to grow up in an environment where they would witness war on a daily basis. I have also met children whose parents were executed in front of them, or who had been kidnapped and tortured themselves.

For Refugee Boy I borrowed from the many stories that I have heard, and created a story that I believe many refugees would recognise. I would hope that anyone who reads the book would think before they accuse refugees of looking for a free ride. We all want to live in peace, we all want the best for our families. The Celts, the Angles, the Saxons, the Jamaicans are all refugees of one sort or another.

What kind of a refugee are you?

And what are yo
petestallardhas quoted9 months ago
They are from India,’ his father replied, ‘they are called Sikhs. Just like our priests they wear turbans, and they are also religious, but I have never seen any in Ethiopia.’

They collec
petestallardhas quoted9 months ago
lem panicked. ‘Ishi abbaye,’ he said.

His father’s response was swift. ‘English, I said.’

‘Yes, Father.’

‘Now what did you say?’

Alem looked back towards passport control. ‘Father, that man who looked at the passports, what was wrong with him?’

‘He looked all right to me.’

‘I think something was wrong with his hair, he looked burned. Did you see his hair? It was red, red like sunset, he looked hot, he looked burned.’
Karla Villarrealhas quoted10 months ago
damp and chilly
Karla Villarrealhas quoted10 months ago
It does seem odd,
Karla Villarrealhas quoted10 months ago
reaching the customs hall.
Karla Villarrealhas quoted10 months ago
Sikhs; the men were wearing turbans.
Karla Villarrealhas quoted10 months ago
of one sort or another.
melike kahrimanhas quotedlast year
taxi pulled up outside the hotel. It was an old-fashioned building that looked to Alem
Agata Antonovahas quotedlast year
Alem began to see animals; they were only dogs that people had on leads but he was sure that he would soon see the local goats and chickens
Agata Antonovahas quotedlast year
He felt as if his life was a roller-coaster going from one extreme to the other
Mehmet Çölaşanhas quotedlast year
Robert joined hands across the stage and held them high.
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