More than 10,000 children traveled on their own to Europe in the last year alone. As Christmas approaches, two of them told us about spending it in Italy, far from home and family, and their hopes for Christmas yet to come.
Last winter, the young refugees decorated their Christmas tree with hope. Save for horrific memories of their journeys, it was all they had.
“I wish to see my parents again,” one boy scrawled on a scrap of purple paper, before pinning it with a clothes peg to the tree in the day centre in Rome. With its warm meals and welcoming smiles, this facility, which opens during the day to allow child refugees to wash, make friends, and play table football, was the best imitation of home they could find.
Another wrote a longer message that could have stood for them all. “I hope that I will be accepted in this new society,” he scribbled, “and that I will see my family again.”
“We choose this time because
it is a time, of all others,
when Want is keenly felt,
and Abundance rejoices.”
One year on, thousands more children share that same wish. As the refugee crisis worsened this year, more than 10,000 unaccompanied children have arrived on Europe’s shores. They are Christian and Muslim, fleeing religious persecution as well as war. Sometimes, the perilous boat crossing is the least of their ordeals.
As Christmas nears, The Telegraph visited this same Rome day centre and spoke to two regulars about how they used to celebrate back home, what they will be doing this year, and their hopes for the future.
This is the refugee children’s Christmas carol...