‘They are the same as we are’: Shelagh Fogarty shares how pregnant refugee asked for Jane Austen novels

31 October 2022, 16:49

'They had nothing...they had nothing'

By Phoebe Dampare Osei

Shelagh Fogarty told the story of how a pregnant Syrian refugee asked her for Jane Austen’s novels during her visit to the Zaatari camp in the Jordanian desert. The woman and her significant other "had nothing", Shelagh said.

Shelagh Fogarty highlighted the “importance” of giving refugees “a human face”, sharing her own memories of meeting them around a decade ago.

Karen in Chippenham had called in and mentioned Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Kurdish boy whose body was washed ashore on the Turkish coast in 2015.

This prompted Shelagh to share her experience of meeting refugees at the Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian desert about ten years ago.

She said: “I met a young couple from Damascus who had left Syria because she was seven months pregnant and had left because of her fears of bombing.

“They had nothing. The coffee table was an upturned bucket with a pretty blanket on it, and they had nothing”, she added.

Shelagh continued: "She was desperate to give me some Syrian coffee with cardamom in it which by the way was delicious…I said can we send you something from England, would you like some baby clothes, what would you like?

“She said, 'I’d really like the complete works of Jane Austen because I wasn’t able to bring any books with me.'”

Karen replied: “Oh gosh!”

Shelagh expressed her surprise at the time, saying: “I'm busy thinking, you know, baby-grows, towels, nappies!”

She discovered through conversation that the mother-to-be was an English Literature graduate and thought it was “really lovely” to hear her ask for the books.

This conversation comes as more migrants continue to cross the Channel in a dangerous and desperate attempt to reach the UK.

In another recent development on the crisis, it was reported yesterday that a man threw petrol bombs at a migrant centre in Dover, before killing himself.

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