Karim* was detained at the airport in France. At that moment all he could think about was his children and his wife, he felt very disappointed that he had let them down. 

Being imprisoned in a huge prison far from home can be very difficult. Karim had noone to talk to as he couldn't speak the language.

Someone from the British Embassy visited Karim and suggested getting in touch with Prisoners Abroad. Karim was so stressed out by his situation it took him almost a month to get in touch. He told us afterwards that it just seemed like one thing after another was letting him down, but he did finally wrote a letter. He didn’t think anything would come of it, until he received a letter back a week later.

I cried from shock and sheer desperation. There was an organisation who cared about me? No one else cared about me anymore, so the effect this had on me was immense. This contact gave me the hope and confidence to start looking forward.

Communication can be a real issue in prison in France. Karim didn’t speak the language which created a lot of barriers. We sent a dictionary and a grammar guide to Karim which helped him slowly learn the language and become less and less isolated. We also sent newspapers and magazines which can seem like such a small gesture, but receiving them can make such a difference.

Karim spent three months in prison before he was able to get in touch with his wife. Those three months were the hardest out of the two years he spent there.

The distance, the lack of communication and the worry start to eat away at you.

 When he did get in touch with his wife it was a great relief, but she was having difficulties of her own. Prisoners Abroad were able to step in and give her practical and emotional support to help her through this difficult time.

After pushing through month after month and holding onto the hope that he had gained from the support he received, Karim was nearing the end of his sentence, but he was worried about coming home. The thing that gave him the most fear was that he would be neglected by society. He considered taking his own life because he couldn’t imagine how he would get by. Prison can affect you in a number of ways and it takes some strength to get through it. 

When Karim arrived back in the UK we took him through the resettlement process; offered him housing support and helped prepare him for work with CV advice. We gave him some money to help him find his feet and to help sort out the practical things so that he  could start to think about his emotional anxiety.

Karim is now working at Virgin Trains and says it is like a dream come true.

I can give back to society and every day I am grateful for being given that chance.

Of the 1,676 family members we are currently supporting, 190 have relatives in prison in France (11.3% of all families). We are supporting 73 prisoners in France which is 7% of all overseas clients.

*name has been changed to protect identity

Being offered a lifeline can change everything. 

Prisoners Abroad translates human rights law into practical life-saving actions by providing prisoners access to vitamins and essential food, emergency medical care, freepost envelopes to keep in touch with home and books and magazines to help sustain mental health.