‘I never wanted hous­ing or ben­e­fits, I just wanted to sur­vive’

Sunday Express - - 39 MIGRANTS -

A DOC­TOR’S son has told how he suf­fered at the hands of peo­ple traf­fick­ers af­ter flee­ing Afghanista­n as a child.

Gul­wali Pas­sar­lay, now 25, was just 13 when he ar­rived in Bri­tain in the back of a banana lorry in 2007.

For­tu­nately its re­frig­er­a­tion sys­tem was not switched on.

His mother had paid £6,000 to smug­glers to get him and his brother Hazrat, now 28, out of the coun­try to es­cape thetal­iban. Gul­wali, who co-runs refugee char­ity My Bright Kite, re­calls how she told them to “hold each other’s hands, stay to­gether and don’t come back, no mat­ter how bad it gets”. Soon af­ter they were taken, the brothers were split up and Gul­wali spent a year trav­el­ling through 10 dif­fer­ent coun­tries un­der the con­trol of var­i­ous gangs in a bid to find Hazrat.

Dur­ing the or­deal, he was in­car­cer­ated three times, tor­tured by au­thor­i­ties, forced to jump from a speed­ing train and had his face burned with chem­i­cals in the back of a lorry.

He also told how he al­most drowned on an over­crowded boat cross­ing the Mediter­ranean from­turkey to Greece.

Gul­wali re­called: “A boat for 20 peo­ple was loaded with 120.

“We were on it for 50 hours with no food or wa­ter.

“By the time we were res­cued, it was sink­ing.

“The traf­fick­ers didn’t treat us like hu­mans, we were just com­modi­ties.what kept me go­ing was faith and the hope of find­ing my brother.”

Gul­wali, whose fa­ther was killed by US forces, fi­nally ar­rived in the UK on a lorry that came from Calais in France.

He re­called: “It was 2am and I was cold, hun­gry and mis­er­able.

“A smug­gler took us to a lorry and asked, ‘Who is will­ing to go?’ Ev­ery­one I was with looked down be­cause we knew it was re­frig­er­ated and there­fore dan­ger­ous – but I said I was go­ing.” He does not know if the lorry driver was aware mi­grants were in the back of his truck.

Gul­wali, who was re­united with Hazrat in 2008, said: “Af­ter we were smug­gled, I didn’t re­ally know what was hap­pen­ing or why but I knew I had to fol­low or­ders. I was fright­ened.

“No one should have to go through any­thing like we did.”

Gul­wali, who has re­cently com­pleted a Mas­ter’s in global di­ver­sity gov­er­nance at

Coven­try Univer­sity, added: “I never knew about ben­e­fits and have never claimed them.

“I have never wanted to take British jobs, hous­ing or ben­e­fits.

“All I longed for was to sur­vive – for free­dom, safety, food and warmth.

“When I heard about the mi­grants found in the back of a lorry in Es­sex, it brought back ter­ri­ble me­mories. It is so sad.

“These are hu­man be­ings.we need to find safer routes for peo­ple that have no choice but to leave their coun­try.”

● Gul­wali Pas­sar­lay is au­thor of The Light­less Sky (At­lantic) peo­ple en­ter­ing Europe also face in­creas­ingly hos­tile poli­cies that make it dif­fi­cult for them to re­build their lives in safety.

To claim asy­lum in the UK, a per­son needs to be in the coun­try but this is near im­pos­si­ble ow­ing to visa and travel rules. This means that peo­ple have no choice but to use ir­reg­u­lar, some­times deadly, routes to even have the chance of ap­ply­ing for pro­tec­tion. It does not have to be this way.

As we have done so many times be­fore, we urge the Gov­ern­ment to in­tro­duce safe and reg­u­lar travel routes so that peo­ple who are des­per­ate do not have to risk their lives fur­ther to find safety. For refugees, widen­ing the def­i­ni­tion of fam­ily mem­bers el­i­gi­ble to re­unite un­der refugee fam­ily re­union rules would be an im­por­tant start.

The Gov­ern­ment must also bol­ster our re­set­tle­ment routes: we cur­rently sup­port 5,000 places a year but we could have far more.also, we must fol­low other coun­tries in pro­vid­ing peo­ple claim­ing asy­lum with hu­man­i­tar­ian visas so that they do not have to take un­safe jour­neys to ar­rive here to ap­ply for pro­tec­tion.

His­tory has shown us that tight­en­ing bor­ders does not stop peo­ple cross­ing them, rather it makes their jour­neys even more dan­ger­ous, caus­ing shame­ful tragedies like the one re­ported last week.


SUR­VIVOR: Gul­wali Pas­sar­lay, who was traf­ficked as a child

Pic­ture: Kham/reuters

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