Meet Emmanuel.

Meet Emmanuel. A 32 year old husband to a beautiful wife and an exceptional father to two children, aged 2 and 7. He enjoys cooking, listening to music and family walks in the park with his children, taking in the fresh air and humming to the sound of the birds singing.

A graduate of physics from an international university, Emmanuel has spent the past year tutoring English in the evenings and translating his native tongue for foreigners by the day.

He is an intellectual in every sense of the word; he can converse in three different languages, not including the language of chess which he is perfectly fluent and operates as the chess master among his friends. Emmanuel is an avid reader, and will openly debate the influence of Stephen Hawking on the modern age or more poignantly the crisis of democracy in different regions of the world.

Emmanuel is truly a man of worth with a sense of pride, a strong understanding of tradition and nationhood, and a moral compass that seeks out the humane in the world. Not so different to yourself, you wonder.

But what else of Emmanuel’s life?

Emmanuel is a 32 year old distressed husband to a resilient wife, as well as being an anxious father to two children, aged 2 and 7. Emmanuel enjoyed cooking his favourite Dolma recipe whilst listening to the traditional Kurdish sounds created by the BlûrHe dreams about the aromas of these past moments, and struggles to recall hearing the laughter of his eldest child running in the park. He misses how this sounds amidst the sweet humming of the birds in the trees, themselves relishing the freedom of the fresh air.

A graduate of Physics from Mosul University, Emmanuel spent his early twenties working as a translator for the invading forces who operated under the umbrella of “Operation Iraqi Freedom”. Constantly walking the tight rope between a collapsing economy and escalating terrorism, Emmanuel was forced to seek extra work to provide for his family; a man of pride, he wanted to be a bastion of security for a young family emerging in a country where death was becoming endemic.

His heart yearns to sit and play chess with his companions, laughing with his friends about their lives and their families, sharing their ambitions to work as dentists, lawyers and engineers; now they discuss the turmoil of living in a field. They worry if the 9 year old confined to a wheelchair will have a sleeping bag tonight.

Emmanuel was an avid reader. He understands the complexity of his own country and the aims of former colonialists that have sought to conquer and control it’s lands. He can discuss the flaws of the Ottomans in the 19th century, the ignorance of the British Mandate in the 20th and will offer a damning insight into the  fragility of Iraq after the “Game on Terror” played out in his homeland.

But what else of Emmanuel’s life?

Emmanuel, his wife and two children share a tent beside a motorway in Dunkirk, Northern France. The family collect their meals three times a day from the back of a truck, eating a collection of vegetarian dishes often styled on recipes from home.


His children are educated by English or French teachers for all of four hours a week. The eldest shows early signs of ADHD which is affecting their concentration and interest in learning. The youngest is vulnerable to frequent colds and is becoming weaker because of uncertain access to medical assistance. And whilst his wife washes with no trace of privacy or sense of personal safety, Emmanuel succumbs to shaving in a mud filled trench, using a shard of mirror and rusty blade; this is his only hope of retaining a sense of pride and decency.

The family are regularly visited by a rotating auxiliary police unit, intent on removing them and every last possession from the ground they inhabit. The police say it is to discourage migration into the area; Emmanuel and the other 800 refugees living there say it is encouraging homelessness and destitution.

The family live 97 miles from Brussels, 138 miles from London and 189 miles from Paris. Emmanuel exhibits the same cultural and intellectual mindset comparable to those residing in these metropolises, but the Europeans pay little attention.

Emmanuel’s family, people wonder, must be the last undertaking such a long journey. Surely, there aren’t still things to run from?


There are.

Emmanuel and his family are currently without shelter due to the shameless eviction of the Dunkirk Refugee camp. The French authorities were intent on preventing the emergence of another jungle and in the process, have destroyed any sense of community or solidarity these people cling onto. Emmanuel is a person who is reflective of many who have fled war, corruption and genocide. They are still fleeing, and they most certainly do not deserve for their trauma to continue in such a prosperous continent.

These families need your help.


Emmanuel is a fictionalised character created for the purposes of this article. The content of this article and the experiences of the protagonist, however, are based on the honest and very factual encounters of two volunteers working in Calais and Dunkirk. 

Alex O’Byrne – Lynch

Roisin Tunney 



2 thoughts on “Meet Emmanuel.

  1. Great article Alex. I think its hard for people to understand who haven’t been there. Bringing the people of Dunkirk to life through Emmanuel’s story will help people understand whats going on there .Thanks for sharing this .


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