Kenisha's Story

I was born in Grenada in the West Indies but my father rescued me from poverty when I was a baby and brought me to the UK.

I had a difficult upbringing and was heading down the wrong path in life. Then one day I witnessed something awful and did a complete 180. By the age of 20 I had two national diplomas and was accepted at Westminster University to study law and couldn’t believe it. I owed everything to my father for his support and his struggle in raising me on benefits and I wanted to give something back.

My uncle then invited me on a day trip to France as a reward for my recent exam results; I hadn’t left the country in 10 years so thought it would be a great opportunity – it was a fleeting visit; my uncle went off to meet a friend and we were soon heading back to the port.

It was when we reached the border control in Calais that my uncle began acting strange; he was nervous, sweating and fumbling his responses to the questions being asked, he was then ordered to pull the car over to the side. I asked him what was wrong and all he said was ‘forgive me’. It was when he was instructed to open the boot of that car that the true horror revealed itself. A family of 4 Afghans were in there – I watched in sheer disbelief as a mother, father and two small children climbed out. I couldn’t believe it. What had I become mixed up in?!

My uncle and I were then separated and I didn’t know what to feel or where to place my thoughts. I was put in a holding cell in Calais for two days; this was a complete shock to the system. The cells were filthy, there was blood and excrement smeared over the walls, the sink was filled with vomit and the toilet was filthy.  I felt extremely vulnerable. I still couldn’t believe what was happening. No one believed my not guilty pleas as this type of crime is common in France due to the border, and the increasing migrant crisis.

I got given 6 months and was told not to appeal. All I could think about was my disabled father at home, I was all he had. The weeks became months and I adjusted to the prison routine. When I first arrived I could barely communicate because of the language barrier, but after French classes, I was able to get by. The whole situation was an epic fall from grace, almost graduating from university to becoming a prison hairdresser.

My conviction now means I have ruined my chances of employment in my chosen field, my DBS check now invalidated, when all I wished to do was bridge the gap between the community and the law by studying criminology. But I have held it together and I have my dignity, and my spirit will not be broken. As long as there is a shred of hope or positivity to hold onto, grab it and don’t let it go. It is what we do for ourselves while we are imprisoned and also the lessons we learn that will then determine who we are for the rest of our lives. I am living proof that ‘it could happen to anyone’, so I urge you not to go gently into the night but pick up your pride and self-worth, for as humans this is our right.