Abaeze whispered to his friend Benjamin in the most spoken Nigerian Yoruba language apart from the national official spoken language English as the truck sped through the Chunnel on its way through to their destination in the UK. They had relatives there who’d assist them to melt into the underworld of illegal immigrants and find them work that would care for their survival needs bypassing normal jobs requiring exposure through tax reporting.
Anything would be better than going back and this was Abaeze’s third attempt at getting into a loaded truck on the French side of the Chunnel. If they found him and sent him back, he’d keep trying until he eventually succeeded. There were sufficient supportive charities that would keep him supplied with necessities while he was in immigration limbo, so he had no fear of starving.
His relatives in the UK had paid well to get cooperation from truckers who plied their trade back and forth between France and the UK and occasionally they lucked out finding someone in immigration who’d turn a blind eye on arrival. Generally, it was a game of chance as the great majority were either intercepted or died along the way in their attempts at entry. Thousands languished in immigration detention centres as authorities fended off the small army of do gooders and lawyers hired to get those detained through the refugee process and the great majority of citizens threatened by what they viewed as an invasion clamouring for them all to be deported. The government defence against both sides was delay.
The throb of the diesel motor continued, and they tried to imagine what each stop and each lurch forward meant. It seemed like hours since they were spirited into the open trailer in the dead of night and urged over the top of crates to the forward end of the trailer while more crates were loaded behind them until the claustrophobic darkness enveloped them. They’d found oxygen bottles and masks in their confined space at the back along with powerful torches and had been instructed how to use this equipment before being loaded aboard. Some trucks had been known to load dozens of people without precautions and they’d all died along the way because of lack of oxygen but Abaeze relatives had meticulously planned this trip with the aid of a driver from their ethnic group. The immigration inspection was their big risk as public outcry had made sure those in charge vetted their officers for potential compromisers so this was a high-risk venture for all concerned and the driver could be jailed for smuggling.
But eventually the vehicle came to a stop and the two illegal immigrants inside guessed they’d reached the entry point into the UK. They were silent as immigration and customs had now been equipped with sophisticated technology to probe and listen among fully loaded contents. They heard doors at the back of the trailer open and noted dim rays of light penetrating through tightly packed contents. A half hour later the doors closed, and the vehicle remained stationery. But eventually it moved on and the two illegal immigrants gave each other a fist bump in triumph. They were in by some miracle and now threw caution to the wind chatting animatedly as they sped on the highways of England to their warehouse destination where relatives would rescue them and take them home to live their shadowy existence as illegals. They’d have to be cautious for the rest of their life but would be protected within their community.
Eventually the truck reached its destination and the driver expertly backed the trailer into the loading dock for cartons and crates to be removed. This took considerable time. and they heard the forklifts coming and going and with the removal of each item light became more available for them to contemplate the wall of crates in front of them. Then top crates were removed so light of day penetrated their area and they waited excitedly for last crates to be removed so they could greet their rescue relatives. Plans had gone like clockwork and they were soon to be free. All those prior attempts had been discouraging but now their patience was about to be rewarded.
As the last crates were being removed by a forklift they stood up and stretched their aching limbs. They’d been cramped for hours with little room to exercise and it was wonderful to see daylight and smell air fresher than their limited area where oxygen masks had been their only hope of survival. They nonchalantly walked behind the last crate posing as labourers in the warehouse and waited for their relatives to reveal themselves. They walked through rows of shelving with forklifts depositing and removing crates following lists while supervisors darted around with electronic devices. The two illegals paused now and then to watch in surprise as they’d never seen anything like this before, then they’d move on aimlessly wondering why contact hadn’t been made and where the exit to the building could be. After an hour they saw offices in the distance and small trucks loading and headed in that direction.
They were challenged by internal security as they attempted to exit the building asking to see their ID tags which everyone working inside the complex wore. Both bolted for the entrance but Benjamin who was older than Abaeze and was not able to run fast after being confined in that small space during the trip through the Chunnel. Abaeze glancing quickly behind him as he made a dash for freedom saw his friend caught and detained. Abaeze raced toward the one entrance gate to the property which was unlocked with officers checking trucks and personnel in and out of the walled warehouse property. The security guards saw him coming and moved to intercept him. One of the security guards removed a gun from its holster and took aim shouting for him to stop and be processed.
Abaeze recalled that time in Northern Nigeria when visiting from the capital Abuja where he worked, and the insurgents raiding his relative’s village. He remembered the gun pointed at him as he watched his sister and her family rounded up to be taken away by insurgents. He remembered surrendering and being forced to march with his sister’s family into their remote insurgent stronghold area days march away. He remembered being traded as a slave and by a chance of fortune being able to escape from the country on the Mediterranean Sea as a refugee to Europe.
He remembered the kind woman working with refugees. She was employed by the United Nations. She’d done all the research to find his family in the UK informing them of his plight. He remembered fighting his way through European countries until he was at the edge of the English Channel in France looking across toward his destination. He was grateful to the do gooders who were English but working with refugees in France trying to help refugees attain their goal of immigrating to the UK. They kept him in touch with his family. He remembered his failed attempts trying his luck illegally and being turned back and now when he was in the country everything was falling apart.
In his desperation after he saw the gun pointing at him, he paused. Then he walked calmly up to the security guard who lowered his gun. The security guard called another to help him. They patted him down looking for stolen goods. There was nothing to incriminate him.
“Where’s your ID and why were you running?”
Abaeze sensed a hopeful opening. He pretended to look at his shirt and look surprised. “Must have left it back inside, sorry. His English was perfect even though accented but then accented English was common in the UK now and that didn’t raise any suspicions.
“You won’t get back in here again without your ID man so better go back and get it.”
Abaeze couldn’t believe his ears. Was this an opening given to him again? “I’ll have my friend get it and bring it home so I can re-enter tomorrow. I’m late for my doctor’s appointment, have to go.”
The security guard walked him to the gate entrance away from his security companion and whispered. He took something out of his pocket and handed it to Abaeze. Abaeze looked at two photos of he and Benjamin a slip of paper with directions and telephone number plus a handful of English pounds.
The Security Guard spoke to him in the Nigerian language Yoruba “Sorry about Benjamin, give my regards to your family.”
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