Don't forget Jetmir

Jono Connor
Tuesday, April 28, 2009

News coverage of police at Calais clearing feral woodland camps of would-be immigrants. Reports that the chief inspector of prisons and the children's commissioner have condemned the appalling treatment of children by the UK immigration system.  A cloudy mirror held up to the harsh issues of humanity vs. legislation for social order.

I vividly remember our own particular fight as a whole school for justice and compassion for one of our own from that system. The children's incomprehension and the misery we felt as adults over our ultimate failure to protect a Kosovan family from deportation about seven years ago.

We campaigned under the banner of "Don't forget Jetmir." How could I?   I last saw Jetmir when he was about 9, but his family phoned me every school holiday from Schongartenstrasse. The street of the beautiful garden. A German detention camp.

Jetmir and his kid sister (born in Barnet, but never entered the country according to immigration law) were flicked around the UK system and held in camps during a year of emotional torture for the whole family; they were forced on and off planes to spend four years as captives in the beautiful garden. A little girl's entire experience of life was literally imprisoned; a young boy's friendships, formative years torn to pieces by strangers. Hardworking, honest parents felt they had failed their children.

They asked after my family each time they called. I wished theirs well and went back to my holiday. Burned out of their original home in a warzone, they had gambled a fortune on entering the UK, lost everything again after investing five years as members of our local community.  They were holding onto hope like the last match in the box.

Last summer was the first time there was no phone call.  Whenever I think of them, I still hear the emotional pain, the desperation and the injustice. I hope they finally got home, wherever that may be.