Afghan refugee slams Home Office’s ‘policies of hostility’ after six migrants die in Channel tragedy

Gulwali Passarlay accuses Home Office of having ‘blood on its hands’

Ted Hennessey
Sunday 13 August 2023 23:05 BST
Six dead after refugee boat capsizes in English Channel

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A refugee who fled Afghanistan has accused the government of having policies of “hostility and deterrence” after six died when a boat carrying migrants sank off the coast of France.

Gulwali Passarlay, 28 – now an acclaimed author living in Kettering, said the Home Office has “blood on its hands”.

At least six people died and dozens more – many of them Afghans – were rescued after a boat got into difficulty off the coast of Sangatte on Saturday.

Around 65 originally boarded the overcrowded vessel before it sank, according to survivors.

Mr Passarlay told the PA news agency: “It’s shocking and I’m not surprised, this is going to happen if we continue with the policies of hostility and deterrence and the lack of safe routes and humanitarian corridors.

“I feel disheartened; this was preventable, this was avoidable.

“It happened because of the UK’s policies and laws as well as of course Europe and France is to blame also because of the way people have been treated and evacuated.

“If the British government had a better system in place, a humane welcome or a way people could come through safe passage on trains, planes, cars and buses this wouldn’t have happened.

“If they had a similar process to the one they have for the Ukrainians or people from Hong Kong, if they had asylum visas or humanitarian visas this wouldn’t have happened.”

Aged 13, Mr Passarlay had to cross the Mediterranean in a 20-person boat with 120 people crammed into it and a 50-hour journey without food or drink before finally getting into a lorry in Calais.

He said 150,000 people in Afghanistan are being “deliberately kept in limbo” following the Taliban takeover of the country in 2021.

Asked what he would say to Britons who object to migrants crossing English Channel, Mr Passarlay added: “I’ve travelled across Britain, I’ve done talks in towns and cities and people are compassionate, the vast majority of people want to support refugees.

“But the ones you hear from are the ones on social media, they are sitting behind a screen and want to blame someone, and obviously the refugees are easy people to blame.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “These deaths are devastating and our thoughts are with the victims’ families and friends at this time.

“This incident is sadly another reminder of the extreme dangers of crossing the Channel in small boats and how vital it is that we break the people smugglers’ business model and stop the boats.”

It comes as an Afghan pilot threatened with deportation to Rwanda remains in limbo five months after he first pleaded with Rishi Sunak to be granted safe haven in the UK.

The airman, who flew more than 30 combat missions alongside coalition forces before the fall of Kabul two years ago, took the dangerous journey across the Channel last November.

The Independent has been campaigning for months to secure safe haven for the airman after he was threatened with deportation, with dozens of military chiefs and politicians backing our calls.

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