Refugees, asylum seekers, and ‘sans-papiers’ are a phenomenon of all times. The growing number of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum is new. It marks an era of isolated wars (Afghanistan, Irak, …) that do not directly affect the western world, thus turning it into a safe haven in the minds of those facing atrocities. But we find it difficult to deal with unaccompanied minors. Even though they are children still, we perceive them as unwanted immigrants or refugees like all others. Yet their fate is different. Unaccompanied minors seeking asylum hide their faces and names for fear of being recognized, traced, hurt, deported. Most of them are traumatized, having lived horrible things. They lost everyone they had, they lost everything they had. They risked their lives to get to a safe country. They love their country and they loathe it, they escaped from it and long for it. Some want to go back, once, others say they will never ever go back. Yet, all are strangers in their new country. They are young people without faces.
I spent time with them, shared their lives on different locations, havens where people try to help them build up a new life. I listened to their endearing, frightening, emotional, truly horrifying stories. Most of all, I admired them for their courage and their strong will to live and carry on with their lives. You can tell by their faces.