Teenage refugee preparing for first Christmas in Hertfordshire after fleeing Eritrea

A teenage refugee from Eritrea is ready for her first Christmas in Hertfordshire after being fostered by a family in Mercury land.

Ten girls from the east African country and Ethiopia arrived in the county in October after the 'Jungle' refugee camp in Calais was dismantled.

They had travelled around 3,350 miles unaccompanied for more than a year, fleeing harrowing circumstances in their home countries.


"I knew as much as everyone else about the refugee crisis, I hadn't followed it closely," she told the Mercury.

"I certainly didn't know anything about Eritrea specifically. I had to do a bit of Googling before she arrived."

Rebecca, 32, and partner Darren Pigott, 35, were already fostering a 12-year-old boy and Rebecca said they were happy to provide a home for the 16-year-old, who cannot be named.

And although her English skills are currently poor, Rebecca said she is settling in very well.

"I don't know a huge amount about her journey, I think it was a long one possibly a year and she went to several other countries on the way," she added.

"From what I understand it was quite harrowing. She is really no trouble at all, very respectful, very happy to be here.

"The language is the hardest part but we have an on-call translator who is available to translate important things over the phone."

She added: "She is a very devout Christian and is really into her church music.

"But she has fitted in well with our family. We went to my partner's family for Halloween and I think she was a bit bemused by all the costumes, but she loved it.

"And again she is just no trouble, if we had a 16-year-old girl from this country we might be out in the middle of the night looking for her or picking her up but she is just grateful to be here."

The girl's mother still lives in Eritrea, and although her village has little internet access, Rebecca said she has managed to speak to her.

"She has managed to speak to her but it is very difficult for them living in a small village," she said.

"She was so pleased to speak to her, you could just see it in her face."

Eritrea facts

Continent - Africa

Capital - Asmara

Language - Tigrinya/Arabic/English

Population - 6.3million

Religion - Christian/Islam

And one of the highlights of the year will surely be a settled Christmas in the United Kingdom.

The family will be celebrating as normal on Christmas Day but then will be travelling to an Eritrean church in Camberwell, London, to mark Eritrean orthodox Christmas.

Rebecca had a clear message for those who blindly insult refugees on the internet.

When the Mercury reported that ten unaccompanied teenage girls were being settled in Hertfordshire back in October there were a deluge of negative comments online, some even advocating violence.

And Rebecca, who is caring for one of the girls, said she had experienced the odd glance while out.

"You do come across that sometimes," she said. "Especially when you are out with her.

"I always think if that was my daughter or my, I would be doing everything I could to get away.

"There's always going to be people with negative opinions like that who are swayed by what they have read.

"It certainly doesn't affect the way we care for her."

She added that if people met the refugees they would likely think differently.

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