A POEM that vividly depicts a young girl's memories of fleeing her war-torn home has won one of the country's most prestigious poetry awards - only a year after she moved to this country.

Oxford Spires Academy student Amineh Abou Kerech wrote her poem 'Lament for Syria' after arriving in Oxford in 2016 without being able to speak English and after a childhood spent living in fear.

The 13-year-old Syrian refugee started to obsessively write poetry while exiled for four years in Egypt, as a way of dealing with her experiences and to remember the country she loved as a young child.

Her powerful poem which calls for 'love and peace' in a country of 'mess, war, wreckage and misery' beat competition from 2,000 other entries from across the UK to be crowned the winner the Betjeman Poetry Prize.

Judge Rachel Rooney praised the school girl for her vivid portrayal of 'intimate, remembered details' and said she had a 'rare gift'.

Speaking of her motivation for writing, Amineh said: “I left my city and everything behind.

"I want to go to Syria in my head, that’s why I write poetry - it helps me remember.

"I write about people, shops, everything back in Syria.

"I search for ideas in everything and then I start to make sentences in my own words."

Amineh fled Syria in 2011 with her family and travelled first to Egypt and then to England with her parents Tammam and Basmeh Abou Kerech, her older sister Ftoun, 14, and brother Mohammad, 11.

The family are originally from Darayya, a Damascun suburb that has seen heavy fighting during the ongoing civil war,

They now live in Abingdon Road, near Oxford's peaceful city centre.

Some 80 Syrian refugees were resettled in Oxfordshire last year with 15 further families being given homes in 2017.

Recalling the family's flight from the terror of war, her father Mr Abou Kerech, 37, said: "I had a shop and many things in Syria. We left with nothing, no money - just the children and some clothes.

"Every month we had to move to a new house, a new city.

"We could not stay. We had to leave to build a better future for my children."

Now in its 12th year, the Betjeman Poetry Prize was founded by John Betjeman's daughter Candida Lycett Green on the centenary of her father's birth.

Open for entries from children aged 10 to 13, writers are encouraged to write on the theme of place.

Amineh was chosen as the overall winner from six finalists, including fellow Spires Academy student Jemima Webster, 12, at a event in St Pancras Station in London on National Poetry Day last week.

On hearing she had won, Amineh said:"I felt so happy and started crying.

"People were coming to me and asking me to sign and giving me presents and books.

"I want to say thank you to everyone who has helped me in Oxford."

Ms Rooney, writer of collections 'My Life as a Goldfish' and 'The Language of Cat', co-judged this year's awards with Guardian cartoonist and children's illustrator Chris Riddell.

She said: “For me it was a clear winner out of the final 50 entries I saw.

"The language had a certain quality to it which was individual, unique and other.

"It gave me a real sense of what the real Syria is like.”

Amineh was encouraged to enter the competition by teachers at Oxford Spires.

Scottish writer Kate Clanchy, and various other poets from different cultural backgrounds have been working with the school to encourage children to write poetry over the last year.

Amineh, now in year nine, only started learning English when she arrived in Oxford.

She wrote the winning poem initially in her native Arabic and then translated it with the help of teachers and family members.

Mel Tuck, the head of the English as an additional language department at the school, said: “We have a lot of students in the school coming from other countries - over 40 native languages are spoken here.

"We really believe in students being able to do anything they want if we give them the right teaching.

"Amineh is a great example of that."

Carolynn Low, who works at Refugee Resource, an organisation that has been working with refugees to overcome past traumas said: "They are dealing with nightmares and flashbacks - anything that helps them overcome this is a great help.

"They can then begin to focus more on school life and get involved.

"She is a fantastic example and has shown great resilience.”