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  1. ITV Report

Ruth's story: Refugees in the Anglia region

Ruth Desale came to Milton Keynes from Eritrea when she was 16 years old Photo: ITV News Anglia

In the future we may remember 2015 as the year the refugee and migrant crisis gripped Europe, but with 2016 now in sight European leaders are still trying to find a way to deal with the thousands of people crossing to the continent.

EU leaders met in Brussels yesterday, and reached a fragile deal on limiting the flow of people into Europe. Meanwhile Britain has promised to take in 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next 5 years, some of whom have started to arrive.

So what is it like to leave your home and start a new life in another country, and what sort of a welcome have people had here in the past? Over the next three days ITV News Anglia will be telling the stories of people who have come to our region to claim asylum, both recently and in decades gone by.

Among them is Ruth Desale, who came from Eritrea to Milton Keynes when she was 16-years-old. The country is infamous for its torture, killings, arbitrary arrests and forced labour and as a Pentecostal Christian Ruth's family believed she was in danger of being arrested.

Ruth Desale talking to ITV News Anglia reporter Olivia Kinsley Credit: ITV News Anglia

For a week Ruth walked through the desert in Sudan. As her group ran out of food and water some of the people she was with died. When she reached Libya Ruth boarded a smugglers' boat to Italy, making the same dangerous journey across the Mediterranean that has claimed thousands of lives this year. Like many others Ruth's boat sank.

"That was the most horrific thing that happened to me and the others I would say because we didn't know if help was coming... We started praying and many people start praying and after the ship was half sank the other ship from the Italian Government came and they helped us".

– Ruth Desale
Thousands of people have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean this year

Sadly stories like Ruth's are not unusual. So far this year about 800,000 people are believed to have crossed into Europe, many from war torn countries in Africa and the Middle East.

Yesterday EU leaders met in Brussels to discuss how to limit the flow of migrants and refugees into Europe. They reached a deal which would see Turkey - one of the main entry points - tightening its borders in exchange for EU cash, and renewed talks on the country's European Union membership.

Last year more than half of the world's refugees came from northern Africa and the Middle East. From Africa many head to Egypt and Libya then board boats to Greece and Italy, while from the middle East they cross to Turkey then overland to Eastern Europe. In principle the Schengen agreement means that people can travel freely through Europe, but since the summer some countries have been closing their borders to try to limit the numbers of people coming in.

Britain has promised to take in 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next 5 years. Some have already started to arrive and councils in the Anglia region, including Essex, Cambridge and Bedford, have set out plans for the numbers of families they are prepared to house.

So what good things, and what challenges could this bring for local people, the local authorities and those coming to the region over the next few years? We'll hear from people in all three of those groups over the next few days, starting with refugees telling their stories on tonight's programme at 6pm.

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