“I just remember the sirens went on. I was so scared because I was thinking bombs.”
These are the words of Premier League footballer and Liverpool FC superstar, Dejan Lovren, as he recalled his experiences as a child refugee. Speaking to the club's own LFCTV, Lovren recounts the day his family fled to escape the Bosnian War.
“We left everything – the house, the little shop with the food they had, they left it," he said. "They took one bag and [said] ‘let’s go to Germany’.”
The war raged for three years, taking the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
The short documentary, free to watch, recounts the 17-hour journey to Germany for Lovren and his family to live with his grandfather in Munich.
"I remember my grandad's house, it was so small, but full of love. 11 of us lived there." Then, after seven years, his family were told they could no longer stay in Germany and had to move to Croatia.
“It was difficult because I had all my friends in Germany,” Dejan said — he found the move tough and was often bullied in school. “Football was the only way I could express myself.”
The current crisis in Europe is especially hard for Dejan.
“When I see what’s happening today I just remember my family and how people don’t want you in their country. I understand people want to protect themselves, but people don’t have homes. It’s not their fault; they’re fighting for their lives just to save their kids.”
Earlier this month the UK government closed down what was nicknamed the "Dubs Scheme." Named after an amendment to the Immigration Act proposed by Lord Alf Dubs, a former child refugee who arrived in the UK on the Kindertransport during the Second World War, this scheme aimed to provide refuge to thousands of unaccompanied child refugees stranded alone across Europe.
But less than a year since it began, and after accepting just 350 children, Immigration Minister Roger Goodwill announced that the scheme has met the "intention and spirit" of the amendment and will therefore close.
Lovren is paid "mega-bucks" to play football. Adored by millions, he has the life Liverpool fans like me can only dream of. But here he is telling us of the horrors he went through as a child, pleading with us to show some compassion and give refugees a chance. Everyday, children as young as seven are making the perilous journey across Europe to escape the unimaginable horror of war and persecution. Many aren't as lucky as Dejan. Many never find a home again.
Global Citizen is currently campaigning for the UK government to keep the Dubs scheme open and guarantee safe passage to vulnerable child refugees in urgent need of safety. Click here to take action now.