The film ‘Leave to Remain’ tells the story of three young asylum seekers, in the UK seeking protection as a result of their experiences in their homelands. Although based on real testimonies, the characters are works of fiction. In the film we see their day to day lives, the formation of new relationships, some of them seemingly unlikely, as the young people are drawn together by their shared fears and hopes for a safer future.
Here at the Refugee Council we see young people in this situation every day. Some of them tell us what they’ve experienced, some will take time to trust us with those personal details, some want to forget and move on. Just the same as other groups of young people, they’re all different. What unites them is their loneliness, confusion and fear for the future, as well as their need for an adult to guide them through the various systems and processes in which they become involved.
The Refugee Council had the privilege of seeing the film before its release. The characters are believable and the story compelling. The vulnerabilities of the young people, as well as their individual strengths resonate with those of us who have some insight into the world of young asylum seekers in the UK. We anticipate being asked ‘but how real is it?’
The answer is that it is not real at all and yet reflects some hard truths. We’ve prepared a Q and A document to answer some of the likely questions. We are optimistic that people who watch the film will feel empathy with the situation the characters find themselves in. We are also anxious that viewers will see this film as representative, for example of the actions taken by professionals such as Nigel in the film, who does the wrong thing in an attempt to help one of his young pupils. It is sad to see adults represented in this way when there is so much excellent work done by adults helping young people in the asylum system.
Viewers may be troubled when they hear Omar’s complete story. We’ve saved the detail of this issue for the Q and A document (spoiler alert!) so here we will just say that it is generally accepted that children can find it difficult to talk about the atrocities they have faced and the full extent of their experiences often take time to be fully disclosed. This is the case for children abused and exploited in this country as well as elsewhere in the world.
This is the story that the young people wanted to tell. The journey that ended with this feature film started years ago, and is an interesting story in itself. It truly involved young people in every aspect of its production, from the development of the story to featuring them in the film as characters or in roles behind the scenes. We commend the film for that and for taking the time and effort to bring these stories to a wider audience.