Sangatte: the english dream

Calais is the last caravanserai. It is the last stop on the UK migration route. Its name or its location change over time but it never disappears. Anonymous people all meet up there to cross the English channel.

En 2001, the caravanserai was a storage shed in Sangatte. I met Akbar et Dana when they were attempting to cross. Akbar was charming. The stocky and cheerful Iranian man was playing "Life is Beautiful" with his son Meissam. He was telling him the story of an extraordinary human size game to foil the fears of clandestinity. Dana was smiling, taking care of Sunita, their second child, a 2 month-old infant she had given birth to on their journey.

In Iran, Akbar was running an illegal videostore, which the mullahs didn't fancy. He had to run away from his homeland. The love story of Akbar and Dana was way more insane than the ones told in the western movies Akbar was selling.

Akbar had stopped in Bucarest, Romania, and met Dana, a computer science student at the time. He had converted to christianity to marry her, and Meissam was born. But Akbar wasn't granted asylum and thought of the English eldorado. Six months later, the family reached Sanguatte. They spent 4 months there, and failed to cross dozens of times, Meissam and Sunita in their arms. One night, a smuggler hid them under a truck. Sunita remained silent, sucking her mother's brests. They entered England five hours later. They were building their new life when I met them again in 2002, in the suburbs of Birmingham. Laughter was still there.

Akbar has relentlessly worked until now, so Sunita and Meissam could get an education. Dana studied law, and works with aid organisations dedicated to Romanians. 

They are now all British citizens. Meissam is a medical secretary. Sunita will enter university, and Dana is enjoying her new life. 

When I wanted to photography them in 2018 thought, they refused. They were facing a harsh reality; Akbar had been unconfortable in England, jumping from a low-paid job to another. His marriage broke appart. Akbar and Dana wish to overcome that without my camera yet. They still have hope: "we will get better". 


Sangatte: the english dream