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Bereaved relatives of Grenfell victims feel 'abandoned and forgotten' 11 months on from devastating blaze

'We feel like no one looks after us. For a few months they supported us but now no one cares'

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Friday 11 May 2018 15:24 BST
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Hamid Ali Jafari with his four-year-old son Amaad following a meeting with Theresa May
Hamid Ali Jafari with his four-year-old son Amaad following a meeting with Theresa May (May Bulman)

Bereaved relatives of Grenfell Tower fire victims have told The Independent they feel “abandoned and forgotten” 11 months on from the devastating blaze.

Children, siblings and uncles of people who died in the fire said they felt the prime minister was failing to act on their concerns, leaving them under the impression that “no one cares”.

Fourteen relatives attended a meeting with Theresa May where they urged her to ensure a “diverse” panel sits alongside the head of the public inquiry into the fire.

They said this would help to restore their confidence in the investigation.

The meeting was scheduled to last 30 minutes but lasted an-hour-and-a-half.

Afterwards, Clarrie Mendy, whose cousin Mary Mendy died in the fire along with her daughter Khadija Saye, said: “We were asking for a diverse panel for the inquiry. We need diversity. It's not that hard. That's what will restore our confidence.

“We gave her a lot to think about, she never said no, she's listened to the concerns, but she kept saying she would 'think and reflect'. We had to keep bringing her back to the main frame, we don’t' want to know about lessons to be learnt.”

Hamid Ali Jafari, whose 82-year-old father perished in the fire, attended the meeting with his elderly mother, three sisters and four-year-old son.

He said he was left feeling that no one was looking after them and other bereaved relatives.

He said the prime minister gave them time to speak.

"She did listen, but there were no answers," he added. "We need a diverse panel, not a whitewash. And we need answers as soon as possible. Right now we're confused. It's like we're trying to start our lives from scratch.

Damal Carayol, who lost relatives in the fire, stands with Theresa May as she holds up a piece of artwork he produced (Clarrie Mendy)

“We don't know how to breath. My mum cries all the time. We feel like no one looks after us. For a few months they supported us but now no one cares about us. We feel forgotten.”

Concerns were also raised that support for grieving relatives had dramatically reduced since the fatal blaze, as public attention has fallen away from the disaster.

Nabil Choucair, who lost his mother, sister, brother-in-law and their three children in the fire, said he felt the government's approach to the inquiry is exacerbating the grief while support provided to relatives has “dropped off a cliff”.

He said: “It's caused us more pain and suffering. It's still not getting in, 11 months on. They should have woken up now."

Mr Choucair, who also lived in the tower, added: “The help has gone over the wall. It's dropped off a cliff. It's not as good as it was before, and it wasn't even great before. They're not doing it from the heart. It's like a job they have to do. There was more attention on it before.”

Nabil Choucair and Mohammed Hakim, who both lost multiple family members in the blaze, said they felt there was a shortfall in support for bereaved relatives (The Independent)

Mohammed Hakim, who lost his entire family in the blaze, said: “Painful is an understatement. It's unbearable. Words can't express how it feels. No one knows what we're going through after everything.

“Losing one is hard enough, but losing five is unbearable. I'll be living with this pain until we get justice.”

Bereaved family members and survivors have repeatedly raised concerns about the suitability of retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick to lead the inquiry and delivered a petition, signed by more than 22,000 people, to Downing Street last December.

Labour's Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said, “It is no surprise, but also completely unacceptable, that the bereaved families and survivors from the Grenfell Tower fire are frustrated by the lack progress in their search for justice.

“The terms of the Inquiry are set by the Prime Minister. She can decide to appoint a panel to sit alongside Sir Martin Moore-Bick. Grenfell residents and lawyers acting on their behalf have made it clear an independent panel is needed. If Theresa May continues to ignore them, she will not recover the confidence of the entire Grenfell community.”

A No 10 spokesperson said: “The PM has stressed throughout she will keep this matter under review, and no stone must be left unturned in getting to the bottom of this tragedy. A decision will be communicated to Parliament soon.”

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