Escape from Serbian police to Suffolk cuts

25th December 1998 at 00:00
SHAKE-UP LEAVES REFUGEES AT RISK. Driton and Ismet are only too familiar with words like beatings, harassment and container lorries.

The two ethnic Albanians, both 17, arrived at Felixstowe last April. Before arriving, Driton, who speaks good English, had been in hiding with his father from Serb police, who were raiding Albanian homes in the Kosovan capital, Pristina.

Driton's friends and neighbours had been taken away by the Serbs and beaten. "When they come out of jail two or three days later you can't recognise them," he says.

Ismet, who speaks German and French but little English, was taken into Serb custody with his father one night. They were separated and then beaten for hours. They hid for six weeks after their release before arranging his passage to England.

Their arrival at Felixstowe port was disorientating. After finding the police and asking for asylum, both were given bed-and-breakfast accommodation and allocated a social worker.

Paul Lines, who was then Suffolk County Council's project manager of the team supporting bilingual pupils, was brought in.

When Felixstowe schools said they couldn't accommodate them, Mr Lines arranged for them to be rehoused in a charity hostel in Ipswich. Since September, they have been attending Westbourne high school's sixth form.

They are both now doing an intermediate general national vocational qualification in health and social care and Cambridge certificates in English as a second language. Ismet is also taking German A-level.

Mr Lines, who has recently retired from his job, has continued to look after the educational welfare of Driton and Ismet. Funding constraints have meant that nobody in the authority is now responsible for newly-arrived 16 to 19-year-olds.

He is concerned that while Ismet and Driton are getting the education and support they need, there are other young Kosovans in Felixstowe and Ipswich who are being left to their own devices.

"In Suffolk, it's very difficult to meet the needs of all arrivals and partly it's because of prejudice. There have been a lot of negative articles in the local press reflecting the common view that the needs of local people should come first.

"The fact is, there are a lot of young men like Driton and Ismet who are unprovided for and in urgent need of support after their experiences in Kosovo."

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