Feb 21, 2019 by

Sixteen year-old Ahmad is quiet amid the noisy, laughing boys in the recreation room at the Unicef/SOS Village shelter in central Athens. Slight and subdued, he walks with a painful-looking limp, the effects of a degenerative bone disease that, Greek doctors say, can only be addressed by specialist paediatric surgery in the UK. All his hopes are pinned on that happening; he has applied to come here as a particularly vulnerable child under Britain’s “Dubs law”. In a city full of sad stories, of childhoods warped by conflict and fear, Ahmad’s stands out. He has been travelling for so long seeking help and shelter, he can hardly remember his home in Afghanistan. He has never been to school and he has seen everyone close to him die. The only moment in our talk when Ahmad brightens up is when he speaks of his desire to learn the piano. “I was searching on YouTube for calmer music and then I found it. I looked for more. Calm music that I’ve never heard before. So I want to make it myself. I can learn the piano if I try: slowly, slowly, I will manage.” The shelter houses, feeds and supports 19 boys between 13 and 18: Mohammed Vahedi, himself a refugee from Afghanistan when he was 16, is the manager. Vahedi says a specific programme has been developed for Ahmad, who has been in the shelter for two months waiting to hear if his application to come to Britain will be successful. “Given his difficulties, Ahmad has erected a wall around himself. We’ve made a specific plan for him – including psychotherapy – so we can help him climb over the wall a bit. “We don’t measure the programme by whether the children stay in the shelter, but whether we have managed to help them meet their needs, express them to us, and become something more like regular children. A month ago four children came to discuss with us their plans to leave Greece for northern Europe [paying a smuggling gang], and we were able to discuss the options and the risks with them. Two decided to s

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