Eritrean asylum seeker, 17, relocation labelled 'tragic'

Article courtesy of the BBC. (Written by Craig Lewis.)

A decision to move an "extraordinary" asylum seeker from a town without warning has been labelled tragic.

Eritrean Abedom Beyene, 17, arrived in the UK last year after a journey that saw him walk across the Sahara desert.

Cambridgeshire County Council, which said it would not comment on individual cases, placed Abdeom in Northampton but has now moved him to Leicester.

A Labour councillor said it undermined his attempts to settle in a community after a traumatic and lengthy journey.

The county council, which said it does not move young people "unless necessary", has been in charge of Abedom's welfare as he was detained by police in the county.

He arrived in October last year, following a two-and-a-half year journey across Africa and Europe.

Abedom Beyene, pictured right with his running coach Peter Currington, has been competing in national events for Rugby and Northampton Athletics Club

He was immediately placed in Northampton, where he stayed in a supported living house, before being moved 37 miles (59km) to Leicester in August.

Abedom, who left Eritrea in 2014 as a 14-year-old, said he did not feel happy about having to move from the town and was not given any explanation.

Danielle Stone, opposition Labour leader on Northampton Borough Council and one of Abedom's supporters, said: "What chance does he have to settle and be accepted if he keeps being uprooted?

"Given that two-year journey and two years' trauma, the fact we had him living with us in our community, such a resilient young man, is extraordinary.

"Sadly, instead of being valued and loved he's just been moved as if what he wants doesn't matter."

While in Northampton, Abedom emerged as a promising young athlete, joining a running club and making friends in the town. He has run the town's parkrun in 15 minutes 37 seconds.

His coach, Peter Currington, said: "He has definitely become part of the community.

"Abedom refers to us as his family. Now he's pretty much on his own."


Image Courtesy: Getty Images
Between 1998 and 2000 Eritrea and Ethiopia engaged in a full-scale war in which 70,000 people are thought to have been killed.

Eritrea has been the subject of condemnation by the UN, which says many military conscripts remain in the army indefinitely for little pay

Military service was brought in as a result of war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, which started in 1998. A peace deal was signed in July.

Abedom said his journey to the UK had been "full of risk" and "a very hard life".

"I was young and suffering for food," he said. "I saw people dying in front of me [in the Sahara desert]."

He said Libya had been "full of Mafias" and "there was no respect for others or the law".

The asylum seeker said he had attempted to cross the Mediterranean on a boat with 640 other people on a "dangerous" 36-hour journey.

"The boat was broken in the sea," he said.

More than 600,000 migrants have come ashore in Italy since 2014.

All asylum-seeking children arriving in the UK are accommodated by local authorities. Children's services in these authorities provide accommodation, care and support.

In 2017, more than 34,000 asylum seekers arrived in the UK, including more than 1,100 from Eritrea. Of these, almost 2,400 were unaccompanied asylum-seeking children including 355 from Eritrea.

A spokeswoman for Cambridgeshire County Council said there was a "shortage of accommodation for all children and young people in care, which means some children and young people are placed outside of Cambridgeshire".

She added: "They remain the responsibility of Cambridgeshire County Council."

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