ELGI turns 18 and dreams of university, only to be thwarted by his unresolved asylum claim. Kareem isettled in London, until his brother arrives from Afghanistan. Filmon is courted by TV producers – but is his face "refugee" enough?

The names have been changed, but the stories are real. Dear Home Office: Still Pending, on at the Edinburgh Fringe from August 21 to 27, is a remarkable piece of theatre created with and performed by 10 refugee young men.

“It started in 2015, when a couple of the boys in my daughter Kate’s supporting housing project (for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children, or UASCs) told her they would like to tell their stories,” explains Dawn Harrison, one of the women behind the project.

Television writer Harrison, who works for ITV soap Emmerdale and CBBC show The Dumping Ground, also directed Reading Youth Theatre for many years. She and Kate, an Applied Theatre graduate, joined forces with ex-youth theatre member Rosanna Jahangard, and Phosphoros Theatre Company was born.

“We met with a growing handful of boys every Friday in the supported house in north west London,” says Harrison. “They had never done drama before – one had only been in the UK for two weeks – and they knew very little English. Then we got an Arts Council grant for £15,000 which meant we could take our play to Edinburgh. They had no real idea of what this meant, but they trusted us, and came up to Derbyshire, where I live now, to rehearse the play we created from the information they gave us.”

That was 12 months ago. Seventeen performances, a 2016 Amnesty Freedom of Expression Award nomination and much critical acclaim later, and the play is back in Edinburgh, opening today at the Gilded Balloon Teviot.

“The theatre company is now a part of their lives,” adds Harrison, “and it’s taken over ours, as you can imagine. We’re not just a theatre company, we offer support so they can actually be in the play, which includes going to court with them, being witnesses in court, and going to the Home Office with them to report.

We have company members whose asylum situation hasn’t progressed much since last year. Our wish is for them all to have refugee status.”

The young men, who come from countries including Afghanistan, Eritrea, Albania and Somalia, left their homes for many different reasons that made their lives unsafe, including war, attacks from militant groups, forced military conscription, and family feuds.

Abdul Pardis, who is from Afghanistan, says the experience of telling parts of his life story on stage has been eye-opening.

“I came here for a new life,” he says “It was hard at first – not knowing the language. I was 15 when I arrived, although people didn’t believe I was that age. Now I am 21. I used to love watching films, dreamed of being an actor. It never seemed possible that one day I could do it. I still miss and worry about family back home, but being part of the play has made me more confident. I am happy here now.”

Syed Najibi, 18, also from Afghanistan, agrees. “Making a play about our experiences as refugees coming to this country was a huge thing for me, taking many months of my life, but I had never really talked about it with anyone except solicitors and social workers. So I knew there was plenty of things I wanted people to know. I grew up in a small village near Jalalabad in Nangarhar province and had a simple life, I would go to school in the afternoon and chill with my mates in the morning,despite seeing the scary war stuff happening every day.”

Coming to the UK, he says, has been a mixed experience, but being in the production has been life-changing.

“It built up my confidence. It gave me a chance to show how it actually feels to leave your home and start again in a different country and culture, because many people don’t really know that much about it, only all the bad things they read in the papers,” he says. “This play gives me a family who I love and see like my real family. And they feel that too.”

Dear Home Office: Still Pending runs at the Gilded Balloon to August 27