Alex, Filmon, Mulue and Osman thought they were safe in Britain. So why did the teenage friends take their own lives?

For a while, the four teenage boys, Alex, Filmon, Osman and Mulue, did a reasonably good job of looking after each other. Filmon and Mulue had met in Eritrea before they embarked on their long, dangerous journey to Britain; the others became friends en route or in London, in a park near a Home Office registration centre for unaccompanied child refugees. Their similar backgrounds drew them together, as did the shared experience of travelling 3,300 miles in search of safety.

Mulue and Alex had both spent time in foster care before moving into independent accommodation; Osman and Filmon were living in a hostel in north London. They had all become used to surviving without parents, instead leaning on each other for support. All of them were also struggling with the unsettling reality of their precarious new lives, which was so different from the expectations they had clung to during their traumatic journeys.

They battled against homesickness. Sometimes they would try to ward it off by cooking meals together, but having left home aged 13 or 14, their skills were basic. “Once Filmon got very hungry during the night and wanted some food. He had no idea how to cook, and neither did I, so we just boiled potatoes with salt and ate together,” another friend, Abel (not his real name), remembers. Sometimes they danced together.

The young friends worried about each other, and tried to ensure they all remained on the straight and narrow – getting cross if they thought one of their group was drinking too much or behaving badly. Osman, who was Muslim, invited his friends to his house to celebrate Easter because they were Orthodox Eritrean Christians. “He did this for us, even though he didn’t celebrate Easter. I remember thinking how kind this was,” Abel said, in an inquest statement. “We all washed our clothes and dressed in some of Osman’s clothes. I still have some of Osman’s clothes now, which makes me very sad to think about.”

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