Author: Nathan Hyde
A teenage refugee has relived the day he made a terrifying 15-hour journey to Leeds in the back of a freezer lorry, after he won the right to remain in this country.
Hossein Ahmadi said he fled Iran in fear for his life when he was 14, after his father was murdered due to his political beliefs and his older brother was arrested when armed guards stormed their home.
The 17-year-old Iranian Kurd then endured horrendous conditions in northern France and beatings at the hands of smugglers for almost a year, before he managed to get into a refrigerated lorry bound for Britain.
After surviving the journey he began a new life in Leeds with a loving foster family and started studying performing arts at Leeds City College.
But in November, he was once again left to fear for his life, after the Home Office rejected his application for asylum and told him it was safe for him to return to his home country.
However, this week an appeals panel reversed that decision at a hearing in Bradford and told him he could stay in the UK for five years.
Hossein told LeedsLive he is relieved by the news and grateful for the support of his foster family, classmates and everyone else who signed a petition which implored the Home Office to let him stay.
He then explained why he can’t return to the country he once called home and relived his traumatic trip to the UK this week, during an in-depth interview.
“When I was a child my father was into different politics so he got executed when I was five or six months old,” he said. “I never saw him to be honest, even by picture.
“I had a brother, older than me, who followed in my father’s footsteps and at the end of 2015 the government came to the house, broke down everything and took my brother.
“That’s when my mother decided to send me somewhere safe.
‘I was scared because I was only 14 at that time and I didn’t know what was happening’
Hossein’s uncle arranged for him to go to Europe and he managed to get to France by hitchhiking and hiding in the back of lorries.
But when he finally got to France, he was forced to spend almost a year living in squalid conditions in the camp known as ‘The Jungle’.
“It was really hard to be honest,” he said. “No food, no sleep – I slept like once a week in a street and rain came, it was cold. It was really, really tough.
“I gave up to be honest and thought I’m not going to make it (to England). For nearly a year I tried every night.
‘I tried to get on the back of lorries, under trucks, to get to England’
“I kind of had to, because the smuggler would beat me if I didn’t try or if I wanted to stay – I was really tired sometimes and thought ‘France is safe’, but I couldn’t (stay).”
“I couldn’t stay anywhere,” he added, “I would get beaten or killed.
“It was tough in Dunkirk. We couldn’t do anything, not just me, everyone, so we had to listen to smugglers. Whatever they said we had to listen.”
‘I was praying to god that the driver would wake up, open the door and tell us to go back to The Jungle’
After countless unsuccessful and extremely dangerous attempts the teenager managed to get into England in the back of a lorry that was being used to transport frozen goods.
“The last time I tried was in a freezer lorry, which was minus 20 degrees,” he said.
“When they opened the door, I was there and frozen smoke came out and I was the first person who got in. It was really cold, trust me, and the driver didn’t know we got in.
“You don’t know if this truck is going to go to England or somewhere else. you don’t know how long it’s going to take.”
“I was praying to god that the driver would wake up, open the door and tell us to go back to The Jungle.
“It was really cold, I was shaking, I couldn’t even sleep. I was trying to sleep for a few hours but I couldn’t.
“I was inside for about 15 hours. It was really, really hard and I still I can’t believe I survivied.
“There were 13 people inside the truck, we tried to make noise or something so the driver could hear, but he kept driving, kept driving until we get to Leeds.
“Then in Leeds, he went to the factory or company, they opened door and everybody ran away. I just ran away with them. I didn’t know what was happening and I didn’t know anyone from that truck.”
“I never saw them again,” he added.
‘I didn’t sleep for a few weeks and when I slept, I had nightmares’
But after two years in Leeds, Hossein was told the Home Office had rejected his application for asylum, and he may have to go back to Iran.
“Last month, I was in a performance in London and I got an email from my foster dad,” he said.
“He emailed me and says, obviously, you got refused from Home Office, because they don’t trust that you are in danger.
“I got really upset, because when I came to this country they said ‘we will let you know within six months’, but I waited nearly two years for the decision and the decision was no.”
He added: “I didn’t sleep for a few weeks and when I slept, I had nightmares.
“I was scared of the government. In Iran they execute people a lot, you may have seen on the news they execute people in public as well.”
But after an agonising wait, the teenager was told he could remain in the UK for at least five years and continue his education.
“I can now stay in this country, which is brilliant news,” he said.