The Crossing book cover
Created: 9th May, 2022

from '261 days before'

261 days before


There’s a film crew

in the building today

wanting interviews,

shoving cameras in out faces.

We are asked by translators

if we want to give statements.


These arseholes come every few weeks,

a young Somali man called Bashir moans.

Different countries,

different TV stations,

saying the same thing.

‘We want to inform the people, so you can get help.’

It’s bullshit.

Nothing changes.


Baba, how can you write your articles?

Aren’t you afraid?


You have to live fearlessly, Sammy.

Use your voice to tell the truth.

You cannot live your life being afraid.


I cover my face with a scarf.

I can speak English, I say.


Get him miked! Shouts a tall white man.

Another white man,

shorter and rounder than the one giving orders,

clips a microphone to my T-shirt

and shines a bright light on my face.


How long have you been here?

the interviewer asks.

Almost two weeks, I reply.


What has your experience been so far?




In what way terrible? Can you explain?


I quickly try and collect my thoughts

and remain calm at the same time.

My throat feels dry

and sweat trickles down my temples.


I’ve seen so much death.

I’ve nearly starved to death.

It’s not safe on the streets here.

We are beaten daily.


What country are you from?


I don’t want to say which country because I fear for my family who remain.


Is that why you left?


Yes. My father was murdered.

There’s forced conscription.

It’s slavery.


Is there a particular country you’re aiming for?


The UK.


Why the UK?


I have family there.

I hear it’s safe.

Land of the free.


The man looks at me

like he knows something

I don’t.


What are the conditions like here?


It’s overcrowded as you can see.

It’s not safe. Especially for women.

There’s also disease.

I want to leave.


Why don’t you?


I’m scared to leave,

But I’m also scared to stay.


© Manjeet Mann from The Crossing, Penguin Random House


Manjeet Mann - Extract from 261 days before