Source: The Guardian

Inquest uncovers suffering of Eritrean refugee found hanged

Osman Ahmed Nur, 19, had two friends who killed themselves recently, London hearing told

Osman Ahmed Nur had been tortured as a child before coming to UK hidden in a lorry.
Osman Ahmed Nur had been tortured as a child before coming to UK hidden in a lorry.
Photograph: Andrew Winning/Reuters

A teenage refugee from Eritrea was found hanged in London after surviving imprisonment and torture in his home country and a treacherous journey through Europe to reach safety in the UK, an inquest has heard.

Osman Ahmed Nur, 19, was found dead on 10 May 2018 in a communal area of a young people’s hostel in Camden, north London, run by One Housing. He was studying English at Westminster Kingsway College and was training to become a carpenter.

The inquest heard that he was part of a group of friends all of whom were young refugees from Eritrea who had fled persecution in their home countries and had travelled unaccompanied by their families through various conflict zones in Africa before crossing the Mediterranean and arriving in a Calais refugee camp.

Two of Osman Ahmed Nur’s friends took their lives in London just months before he did. Filmon Yemane had recently turned 18 when he killed himself in November 2017. Alexander Tekle, also 18, took his own life a fortnight later, in December, a year after he had arrived in the UK hidden in the back of a refrigerated lorry.

Statements from four of Ahmed Nur’s friends were read out at the inquest today by the coroner, Mary Hassell, at the inquest at St Pancras coroner’s court. Their evidence laid bare the stress and trauma Ahmed Nur was going through before his death. As well as dealing with the distress of being imprisoned and tortured as a child in Eritrea before he fled, he was constantly worrying about his family, especially his younger brother, who was in prison in Egypt, and his older brother, who was in Sudan. He felt he should be providing support for both of them but was unable to do so.

His friends said he turned to alcohol and cannabis. After he was stopped and searched by the police, he became convinced that because he was smoking cannabis he was going to have his refugee status revoked and would be arrested and imprisoned for a long time and deported back to Eritrea.

He believed that he was being followed, that there were videos about his drug use on YouTube, and that his drug use was being broadcast by newsreaders on the BBC and by TV sport commentators when he watched football matches.

In a statement, Ahmed Nur’s friend Henok Habrematiam said the death of Yemane had hit him hard. “When Filmon died, Osman was very shocked and upset. We were both very shocked when Alex died. I remember thinking Osman looked sad and his eyes were swollen. Osman was charismatic, funny, got along with everyone and was loved by everyone.”

Referring to his friend Ahmed Nur’s death, he said: “It’s not as if I lost one – it’s as if I lost three.”

Another friend, Yohannes Mebrahtom, met Ahmed Nur in the camp at Calais in 2015. “It was hard living in the jungle,” he said in his statement. “Osman and I stuck together. We got into same refrigerated lorry that arrived in King’s Cross, got out and claimed asylum. He was like my brother. We saw each other at least once a week.”

Sarina Campbell, a child and adolescent psychotherapist at the Tavistock clinic in north London, saw him soon after he settled in the UK and said that at that time he showed no indication of being suicidal. Hassell questioned Dr Zoe Knight from Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust about her assessment of Ahmed Nur.

“One possibility leaps out at me is that this young man is becoming psychotic. I’m really surprised that nowhere in this whole discussion anyone is exploring that,” she said.

Risikat Sanni, a night support worker at Ahmed Nur’s hostel, said that she nicknamed him “smiley face”. She said she was not aware of an email from one of her colleagues flagging up Ahmed Nur’s concerns about his two brothers in Egypt and Sudan. “It’s too much for him to bear,” the email warned.

She said she had not received any training about specific risks associated with unaccompanied young asylum seekers.

The inquest continues.

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you Martin for the information, however depressing it is.
    I feel incensed at the predicament of all refugees and asylum seekers, particularly the young ones whose ordials never seem to end!
    CAN’T WE UNITE ON AT LEAST ONE MOST SIGNIFICANT POINT?

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