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Nardin’s Story

2010 January 12
by Paul Vallely

Nardin Mansour is ten. She lives in Moss Side in Manchester. Police and immigration officials have twice awoken her from sleep to bundle her off to a detention centre.  This is the story she told me in her own words:

First they break the door. Then they just run in up the stairs making as much noise as possible. Then they put the lights on to wake you. You are scared to see these people just there in front of you in your bedroom. They were freaky looking, they have a belt with handcuffs on and those police sticks, truncheons. There were loads in the room, about 10 of them.

They said get dressed because we are going to take you to our office. I went into the bathroom but they told me I had to leave the door open and I wasn’t allowed to open the window – they didn’t say why but it was because they don’t want you to escape

I went downstairs. My dad was there . He said everything would be OK but they wouldn’t let me go into the kitchen because it has windows.

Then I went outside the house and I had to go in a van. My Dad was put in a different one surrounded by all these people. My Mum looked very worried but I told her that Dad had said everything was going to be alright.

When we got there you had to take off your shoes and coat and they took my Dad’s phone off him. But they gave him another one which didn’t have a camera on it – you aren’t allowed to take pictures inside the detention centre because they don’t want people to see what it’s like.

The second time they came to take us away they were really angry. They didn’t say but you could see by their face. My Dad told them that my brother had just had an operation on his hand and my sister had an ear infection and was waiting to go to hospital. But they took no notice.

On the coach I felt sick three times because of all the travelling. You’re not allowed to sit next to the door.

We got there and there was this massive fence as big as a house with all curly wire on the top. When you get in it’s like all empty space with nothing and then another big fence. Then we had to go through a lot of doors. They lock each one behind you. Inside, on the other side of the fence there is a pretty garden out there but you are not allowed to go in it even though it has a big wall around it

We went in a room with three sofas and some toys but most of the toys were broken

And it was mainly baby stuff .They gave us colouring books but I’m too big for that.

They told my mum and dad to take some stuff out of all our suitcases and put it in one bag. We were allowed the keep one bag and the rest of our things were put away in a storeroom

You had to stand in a line and have your photograph taken. I didn’t smile. If I had known what was going to happen I would have stuck my tongue out. They use the photograph to give you an ID card.

Then we had to go to the nurse. She asked my dad: “Do you drink drugs?” And he said No. She asked him if anybody had ever attacked or hurt him. I don’t know why.

It was all confusing. At first they were nice and then they were asking you all these silly questions. And the lady from the nursery didn’t change Angela’s nappy.

They gave us three rooms but one was stinky, and dirty on the floor. There were windows in the room but they only opened a tiny bit so we slept two in a bed in the other rooms. The bed was made of wood. It didn’t have a proper mattress so you couldn’t bounce on it.

You could see rabbits out of the windows, that was the best bit, but I felt really confused and worried. They were nice to me but sometimes they treated my parents different from me. One woman said very bossy to him: If your child goes out again I’m going to lock the door. He said: She’s just gone to the toilet; don’t get angry till you know the full story.

There was a school there but you didn’t get proper lessons, just colouring and painting. The teacher was Miss Jen. She asked us what score we would give Yarl’s Wood out of ten. I said zero. She said how can we improve. I said you can improve by being nice to people and treating them all in the same way. Actually I didn’t say that to her. I said it to my friend Vivienne but she wasn’t there long because she was sent to Kenya. She didn’t want to go because she had loads of friends and a nice school.

Vivienne was nice but some of the children there were mean to me and used to push me and say horrible things. One boy, who was 14 or 15, said he was going to get a stone and kill one of the rabbits on the other side of the fence.  I said why? And he started shouting. He threw the stones but he missed. But he kept throwing stones down the hole where the rabbit had gone. He was angry. A lot of people were angry.

They said: “Do you want to help decorate the Christmas tree”. I said: “No, I have already decorated my own tree at home. We did it the day before they came and took us away”.

They try to be nice to you to make you think that nothing is going on wrong.

Some presents came. (An Anglican priest dressed as Santa took them to the centre as a protest against children be locked up in immigration centres.)There was  big sack. They said you have to show your ID card and you get one present and one coin. It’s a funny Santa if you have to show an ID card.

They keep saying to you: “Are you ready to go to Egypt? Egypt is a nice place, a wonderful country.” I said No I want to stay here with my friends, at my school to get a good education. They are trying to make you say the opposite of your Mum and Dad, they try to divide you up from them.  She was trying to, but she was not very good at it.

I felt really angry. I said “No way, I can do whatever I like with my own life. Why don’t you go back where you came from?”. I thought: why is she doing this?

When we were in the bus on the tarmac at the airport they said: Do you want to get on the plane?  And I said No. And she said: “Well we can always come back next week”.

Then a judge said they had to let us out. When I heard I said “I’m free, I’m free.” I was so happy that I tried to bounce on the bed but you can’t because it is too hard.

When I got back to school I was very happy and all my fiends were hugging me – just the girls – the boys just said Hi – but my sister Karin got hugged by the boys as well in her class. A boy said: “I’ve kissed Karin; I’m glad she’s back.”  One boy said to me: “You’re lucky, you missed school.” but I said to him: “I’d rather have been here, even doing maths”

Karin knows what’s going on. The last day she said: “it was nightmare but it is over.” But I’m thinking now that maybe I should come to school very early every day before these people can come and wake me up to take me away again.

When you wake up in your bedroom at home you should just see your wardrobe and the mirror not a load of freaky people stood looking at you.

If it happens again I’m going to complain. I’m going to write them a letter to say: why are you doing this. I can stay in this country if I like. Who do you think you are? You are not in charge in this country. If they don’t stop I will write to the Queen because I don’t want to go to Egypt.  Last time I was so fed up that I wanted to throw myself out of the window. The Queen is nice because I have read it in the BFG. I’ll tell the Queen these people get money for being mean to people.

If you got all the immigration people together in a room they wouldn’t listen to what you say. They would just make excuses.

I’d let the police lock me up if I had done something wrong, but I didn’t do anything wrong, so why is this happening to me?


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