1. “I go UK,” he says, “And I have job, I work. And I have house, and bed. Maybe television. But house, and bed. Here, three people in tent for one people. In UK, I have bed.”
I’m sitting in a waiting room in Calais, France with three young men. They’re fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen – all here to see the doctor, all refugees. The oldest, Eferm, continues: “Is no good have money. Money no good.” His friends laugh and punch his arm – “No, is good be rich!” – but he shakes his head and tells me gravely that money is not important. “Important is be happy. I be very happy, have job and bed.”
Eferm was born in Eritrea, a small country on the Red Sea, bordered by Sudan, Djibouti, and Ethiopia. Of its population of 5.3 million people, more than 480 000 have been forcibly displaced. The majority flee to neighbouring countries, but tens of thousands have made it to the European Union, hoping for asylum. There are just under 50,000 Eritrean refugees in Germany – in 2017, the tiny country came just after Syria for the number of refugee applicants in Europe. If the same proportion of the UK were to be displaced, there would be over 7 million UK asylum-seekers in the world.