Is the Independent plagiarising chain emails?
I received this email from my good friend, Molly Mulready-Jones, over email on the sixth of June. It's rather long, so it follows below. The same piece appeared in today's Independent
. The by-line on both is Carole Angier. I wonder what's going on there. Did they commission this from Carole Angier? In which case, how did it end up doing the rounds on email a couple of weeks beforehand? Anyway, I hope you read it and I'm glad of the publicity in the Indie.Read the rest of this post by clicking here.
I tell you my story, but I don't tell you my name. People say 'a dog's life'. You can call me Dog.
I come from Africa. I don't say where. My father leave my mother when I was very young. I don't remember him, he never take care of me. My mother did her best, she work selling fruit in the market, but we were poor. In Africa no money, no school, so I never go to school. Sometimes my mother gone a long time and leave me with friends. They don't treat me well, sometimes I don't have enough to eat. Then I have to beg on the street. Already young I beg - maybe 5, 6 years old. Young.
So my life is rough from the start, maybe God want to prepare me. But he prepare me well, because my mother is a good woman. She love me and teach me good things - work hard, don't steal, trust in God. All good things I know I learn from her. But one day she don't come back. I ask and ask her friends, but they don't tell me for a long time. Finally they say she died. I was maybe 10 years old. I don't even know where she is buried, or who pay for her grave.
I still stay with the friends, but I have to beg much to survive. One day on the street a man call me to go and buy something for him. He was a black man, but French, not African - a French businessman. When I come back quick he ask me why I am not at school. I tell him my situation. After that he employ me whenever he is in my country. He become almost like a friend.
Maybe two years pass like this. One day he tell me I am a smart kid, I should go to school. He can send me to school, he say, or he can take me to Europe. What do I want to do? I have nothing in my country, so I say: Europe.
I don't know how he fix documents for me, I never have any of my own. Maybe he say I am his son or so. Anyway we have no problem. We come to France, to Paris.
He take me to a friend, let's call him Paul. Paul's place is small, only one bed. I sleep on the floor. I only get to sleep in a bed when Paul is away.
Every now and then the businessman come to visit us. I ask when I can work, when I go to school, but nothing happen. Maybe he have more problem than he thought to get papers for me. In Europe you have to have papers for everything.
I take care of Paul's place, like a servant, and he give me food and clothes, but no money. Sometimes I go into cafés and ask people for money, and sometimes they give me. But I'm not so smart now, usually I learn fast, but I can't learn French well. I don't know why, maybe I was scared. French people are very proud of their language, if you don't speak it good they don't like you.
After a few years the businessman stop coming to see us. Then Paul don't want to keep me any more. He tell me he is going away and I can't come with him. I stay in his room alone for a while. But then someone come and ask questions - who am I? Who do I stay with? So I leave the room and never go back. I was 16 years old.
From now on my life is so hard I don't want to remember it. I suffer much, I tell you. For years I sleep rough on the streets, in Paris and other cities. I beg for money and food, I can't wash much, I sleep in bus shelters, or in discos, which are free to go in after midnight. But I remember my mother. I never commit crime. I drink alcohol sometimes, already at 16, 17 I need to drink sometimes. But I never touch drugs, because I see what they make people do. I am not that kind of person.
After all this time I know lots of people like me, Africans and others, who sleep on the streets of your cities in Europe. I want to go where I can speak English, it's my best European language. People tell me: Holland. A friend help me buy a ticket, and I go.
Holland was better than France for me, but Holland was not good either. Yes, people speak English, but not for work. So I learn Dutch, but it take long time to learn enough. I earn money cleaning in bars and clubs, but that is not enough either. I try many cities - Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague - but more years pass and I am still sleeping rough.
I am in my 20s now, maybe half my life is over. I see the way things are going is no good. I don't want to be on the streets any more, I must have a proper plan for my life. And I decide it must be England. Everybody speak English there. I like the English people I meet, I like the football - the best team in the world is Man United. So I speak to a friend of mine, a Dutchman. He tell me that England is not like the continent: you need documents to get there, but once you are there, there is good work. He help me. He give me a Netherlands ID and a plane ticket. I thank him again now.
The ticket take me to Belfast. In Belfast they say it is not my photograph on the ID card. I say I want to claim asylum but they say no, I cannot claim asylum in the UK. They put me in prison for 4 days and they send me back to Holland.
I tell my friend what happen. He give me a new ID card and new ticket, train this time. And this time, no problem. UK Immigration officers check my ID on the train. They say safe journey, I say thank you. Last time I have a friendly chat with Immigration. Hah!
When the train stop I ask people where we are: London! I'm happy. I don't ask asylum, because the Belfast man tell me they don't give it. And I don't want asylum, I want work. My mission is not to go back on the streets again, to support myself, to survive.
I walk around London all day. And lucky for me, I see a guy I know from Amsterdam. He tell me he live in another city, I should come with him. He take me to a house where I can sleep. It's full of people and I have to sleep on a chair, but no problem, I'm happy.
The guy tell me to go to an agency and ask for work. And I see it is true - plenty of work in England. I get a job in a warehouse straight away, order pick-up. I work two weeks, they like me, already they want me to work full-time. But this job is not in the city. I go back to the agency and get a job in the city instead. Warehouse again, I not say where.
I'm a good worker, everywhere I work they like me. So after a few weeks this company say I should work full-time too. By now I don't sleep on the chair any more, I rent my own house and sleep in my own bed. First time in my life, I live on my own. I live on my own, and everything I have is for me. My bed is for me, my chair is for me. That is my plan, and already after 5, 6 weeks in the UK it is coming true. I can't believe it, I tell you. And now they offer me full-time, and permanent. If I say no, maybe I lose everything. So I take the risk. I give the job centre my ID card and ask for NI number. They say, come back in a week.
I go back in a week, but nothing. For 4 months I keep going back, but always they're still investigating my card. I work every day, overtime too. I buy good things, quality things, I enjoy my life for the first time. I pay all my bills - rent, utilities, council tax - all I pay. Council tax is big for me, but no problem. I'm glad to pay, I'm proud to pay. I keep all the receipts, I can prove to you. Never I owe a penny to anyone.
When it take so long for the NI number I worry, sometimes I have bad intentions in my mind. But I think - I'm not doing any wrong. Finally I get appointment to collect my number. My friends say I shouldn't go, maybe they will arrest me for working illegally. I can't believe this, I don't know that what I am doing is so wrong. So I don't run away, I just wait for the appointment day. Then that morning the police come and arrest me. They charge me with deception, and say I commit a crime.
From that day two years ago I am a criminal, everyone treat me like a criminal. But what did I do? I don't hurt anyone, I don't cheat anyone, I work hard and pay my way. But they say it is a crime. OK, I obey.
Immigration officers come and interview me. One officer says I can wait at home for my trial, but I mustn't run away. I live at home 6 weeks not working, lucky for me I pay my landlord a month in advance. When I report to the officer, he's surprised. 'You're a good guy,' he say. 'People like you I don't see. I ask you not to run away and you didn't run away. You came.'
I go to court and they sentence me: 12 months in prison. This is hard, I tell you. I don't like prison, prison spoil your record, and I know myself I'm not a criminal. But still I obey. I don't fight, I don't get into any trouble. Mornings I go to school, English and computer, afternoons I work - pack instruments and load them in cars. When I finish my sentence I have £300, I work so hard. The officers like me and treat me well. They see I am not a criminal.
In prison a lady come from Croydon and tell me to seek asylum. I say, 'This asylum I'm seeking, you won't give it to me, so why you waste my time?' She say, 'That is the procedure.' So I obey. I give more interview. Always interview, interview, don't you know what I tell you already? I swear to God I don't give any more interviews in my life. I don't know what you want from me. - OK, sorry. I know you're not Home Office. Sometimes I think everybody Home Office. Huh.
Already in prison Immigration tell me they can't get travel document for me. That is September 2005, more than one year and a half ago. One year and a half pass, and still they say it will come. It will never come. I leave at 12, no papers, no school. Should I wait my whole life for a document that will never come? This is my story, they should look in my face and see I don't lie. They think we all lie, but it's not true. They should investigate! They should distinguish! They say they treat each case on its merits. That is the lie. Huh!
OK, no problem. No problem. I serve 6 months, good behaviour, my sentence is done. So it come to the day of my release. Any time I remember that day I need to cry. When I reach the gate they say 'No. Home Office says you go back.' I say 'Why?' They don't tell me, but later I hear it's because there's no room at the detention centre. Whose fault is that, Home Office or me? But who serve the extra month in prison, Home Office or me?
No problem. After a month they send me to detention centre. This is better. You can have phone calls, you can walk outside. Yeah, at first it is better. But I tell you, not for long. They cheat you. You can't make money here, like in prison, instead they take the money you have. Phone card outside cost £3.50, they take £5, mobile phone outside cost £15, they take £30, sometimes more. And what's the difference between detention and prison? I tell you - no difference. People are monitoring you, you have CCTV on you everywhere. They decide for you, you cannot decide for yourself. Nothing. They take everything from you - your photograph, your fingerprint, your DNA, your independence. Nothing left.
And some of the officers here worse than in prison. Not all, no - I'm not like Home Office, I distinguish. Some are very good, kind, they treat you well. But we are all foreigners here, and the British don't like foreigners. Some of the officers, I swear, the way they talk to you - as if you are an animal. As if you are not a human being, because you are illegal. Huh. I don't want to talk much. If you are illegal you are not a human being in Britain. That is the problem.
I stay in the detention centre 6 months. Every month I get report from Immigration. Wait for document, wait for document, all they change is the date. I get crazy - we all get crazy, I tell you. Worse than prison. In prison you know - 6 months, 2 years, whatever your sentence, you serve it and you go. In detention you don't know how long, maybe you die there. You feel you're dying already.
And then come the worst thing. Lawyers.
I have a lawyer the police give me for my criminal case. He visit me in prison and I sign for legal aid. He keep saying he come, but he don't come. He keep saying he write to Home Office for my case, he write to court for bail, but I don't hear a thing. Finally I get a date for bail. A week before he come and say: 'I see from your case you will lose. So legal aid don't pay, I can't represent you.' I say, 'Why you don't tell me before, I find someone else!' He say if I pay, he will represent me. That is his strategy - he tell you so late, you have nowhere else to turn.
He ask for £3000. I say - 'You know my situation, how can I get £3000?' I have a friend, maybe she can get £1000. But he say No. Huh! I don't smoke, but that day I smoke nearly three package cigarettes. I lose hope. In fact, that day I nearly die.
When I go to the court, the lawyer don't come, and he don't send my friend's address either. I speak for myself, and I see the judge want to release me. But without address she can't release me. Huh! I tell you. So I don't get bail.
Later I try again. Would you believe what happen this time? On that day I get up early, I shower, I dress well. But they don't come to pick me. So I go and ask what happen, and they say - the van is gone. The van is gone without me… Then the court write and say I don't come. What! What do you expect me to do? Should I fly? Am I invisible? Don't do that! Don't do that to people!
After that the lawyer ask me for money again, but I finish with him. I find new lawyer - and you know what happen? He's worse than the old one! He come and take £200 from me fast, then I don't hear from him for a month. Every time I ring him he say, 'Hey, hey, Mr Dog, I'm busy man, hang up the phone!' Once I ask to speak to him, I hear him tell his secretary to say he's not there. I hear it on the phone. People think if you are from Africa you don't have sense. They treat you like an idiot, but I am not an idiot. Hah!
Finally I get letter saying we have court, he need £500 for barrister. My friend get me £500. How can I repay her? - but I have no choice. When we get to court, no barrister, if I don't speak up fast maybe she never come. Then she come, but she don't know my case well at all. She speak real quick, maybe 7, 8 minutes. That's all.
Long time I hear nothing, and when I do I wish I didn't. The judge say my case is nonsense. Nonsense! And he tell lies - Home Office lies, no one answer for me. Like I live in council house - not true! I live private and pay. Like I have three bank accounts. Not true!! They fit you up, they tell lies and don't let you answer. The law has abused me, how can I trust the law? Legal aid lawyers, private lawyers, all the same. You take £700 from me and represent me like that! I have a friend in detention, his lawyer take £1600 and not represent him at all. You're in detention, then you're deported, what can you do? Nothing! They know. That's what the Home Office should investigate! That's who the criminals are!
OK, no problem. No problem. Huh.
Now I show you I remember good people too. After my Appeal was dismissed I have no hope left, no money left, nothing. But God is there. When I am on the bottom he send good people to me. I get a volunteer visitor, and I get BID - Bail for Immigration Detainees. They help me. They find a new lawyer for my case, they prepare a new bail application for me. I give thanks for them always, and I pray for them hard. If not for them…. I have no family. My friend, my visitor, BID - I take them as my family now.
But now I have to tell you bad again. Immigration are wicked, they try to frustrate you, they try to paralyse your life. As soon as you have bail hearing they give you removal date. I'm nervous, I can't stand any more. I go to Immigration manager and say it's 6 months, they should release me. She say - Go to Colnbrook and get tag. I say no, she should give me a tag from here. But she not agree. That day I am really annoyed, I am really worried. Some people are on hunger strike, and I join them. It's only one day. But I say I'm not going to eat, and I don't eat. And bang - they send me to Colnbrook. Not for tag - that's a lie. Because I join the hunger strike, and they want to break us up.
Now I have to tell you worse. There are things, if I remember them I need to drink. I need to buy alcohol and drink.
They page me, and when I come they say they transfer me. I say, let me go and pack my bags, but they say no. They say if I don't co-operate they will force me. Is that a way to talk? If you talk to me, talk nicely!
They take me to the van by force. Not because I resist - I don't have the chance. I bet the manager say 'Take that boy by force.' And one officer - I never forget him. He hold my neck, he pull my leg - ****. He treat me worse than a criminal. I don't forget.
OK, no problem. No problem. Huh.
I get to Colnbrook. I don't talk much about that. They put me in a wing you're only supposed to stay 72 hours max and they send you, but they can't send me. That room, if I say it I need to cry. You can't go out, only maybe 15 minutes. Security watch you all the time, you only allowed 10 minutes phone calls…. It's a punishment. What did I do?
They move me, but still it's bad. Not the officers, they're good there. But Colnbrook is prison - no air, nothing. Everybody frustrated, everybody get crazy. You remember what happen at Harmondsworth? Why you think they burn that prison? Because of frustration. You think if someone is in good condition, they do that? If you put a person in a cage you spoil his mind. Huh!
I stay in Colnbrook six weeks. Then come the day I never believe will arrive: I go to court with two sureties, my friend and my visitor, my lawyer send me good barrister, and I get released. Yeah, I remember that barrister too, I thank her too. The guards give me my stuff in a big plastic bag. It's heavy, and it's made for criminals - you can see inside, no bomb. But I don't care. I'm free.
That day was more than 8 months ago. For 8 months I try to keep up my spirits, to count my blessings. My lawyer work hard to get my case reviewed. I live with my friend in nice house, I sleep in a soft bed, not on the street. She help me a lot, and I help her, with her house, with her children. I try to remember that this is good. I do remember, in fact I take my life now as paradise, compared to before. But sometimes, I tell you - I can't help it, it's hard. I live in someone's house again, like houseboy. I am not that type of person, but I don't have a choice. I can't work, I can't pay her back, I can't pay anything. I am dependent. Just for a bus ticket, a pint of Guinness - I have to ask her every time. And she don't have much money either, sometimes she get upset with me. Sometimes we fight, and she say bad things to me. Then I feel she's like everybody else, she betray me too. Sometimes, I swear, I don't trust anyone in Britain any more - not my new lawyer, not you either - why do you want to know all this from me? Maybe you'll put me in problem too.
I go to school, I learn English and maths, my teacher say I'm doing very good. But that is once a week, one hour or two. The rest of the time I am in the house. I sleep a lot. And always I think about my case, about how to survive, not to be in this mess-up. Always I think, think, think, round and round. I am not in prison any more, but this is prison too.
I say to Home Office: After 8 months more, what are you still looking for? Still you are deporting me, still you don't want me - what have I done? What about the things you did to me? You lie about me in a court of law, you treat me like a criminal - worse than a criminal. You treat me like a terrorist. But I am not a terrorist. I'm a foreigner, that's all. Because I am a foreigner, you can do what you like to me. Hah!
What about the immigration lawyers that cheat me, what about the British company that cheat me too? My last salary they owe me - £1200, £1300. But when I was arrested they say that is not my name, and they take the money back. Who do the work, me or my name?
I say this to Home Office, and to anyone who read my story: I was an orphan in Africa, and a street boy in France and Holland, and the worst things in my life happen here. You come to my country first and take money away, I want to work and leave my money here. You can kill me without knife, without gun. Sometimes I feel like you already succeed.
I say to Home Office: I didn't come here for benefit, I didn't come here for council house or bank loan. My mission is to sweat and work and survive. If that is a crime, I serve my time for it, and more. Now I am out, but still you punish me. First I have to sign at police station, every time I go I feel shame. Then you send me to sign 40 miles away, how can I get there when I don't work? Huh! Let me work! No benefit, just work. Even if you give me one year, I'm happy. It give me a chance. I pay back my friend, I'm independent, I hold up my head again.
That is the important thing I want to say. Let people work. If don't want criminals, let them work. You stop them working, you make them criminals. What choice have they got? If you don't treat people like human beings, maybe they can't behave like human beings any more.
If you don't listen, I swear I don't know what I do. I am an honest person, but the way you treat people, you spoil their mind. If you provoke me much, you make me do what I don't want to do…. I pray hard not to do it. I pray hard to keep my conditions, not to betray anyone who trust me, not to run away. No. I know in my mind what I will do. I'm prepared to die for my case, I swear. If they detain me again, I won't cooperate any more. Never in my life will I eat. Never in my life will I call anyone - no lawyers, no friends, no one. Let them kill me! Maybe my life will end like this. It is always in my mind.
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