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