‘Cruel Tory rules mean I’d be turned away as a child refugee trying to join family’

Ali, who arrived in the UK after fleeing his native Iran, fears child refugees like himself could be turned away in the future (Image: Ali/Safe Passage)

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Ali was just 15 when he found himself alone on the streets of Greece, separated from his family and scared.

The teenager had fled his native Iran fearing for his life, but was on his own with no support network to help him reunite with his loved ones.

Now the student, who dreams of becoming an actor, fears that child refugees like himself will be denied entry to the UK under cruel new rules devised by the Tories.

He was finally able to join family members in London under the EU's Dublin Regulation in 2018, and has embraced life in the country.

The UK is no longer bound by the regulation, which allowed unaccompanied children to apply for asylum in countries where they had family members, as a result of Brexit.

Campaigners now say the government's New Plan for Immigration (NPI) means unaccompanied children like Ali will be turned away from the UK.

Under the proposals it will be harder for people who have escaped to Europe to be allowed into the country.

MPs will discuss the government's Nationality and Borders Bill today in Parliament.

Ali arrived in Europe before he turned 16, but endured a terrifying stay in Greece before he could be reunited with family members (file image)
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)

Recalling his time in Greece, Ali said: "It was scary, I didn't have anywhere to eat.

"It really affected me, I was young and I didn't know what to do.

"I was not only scared, I was lost, I didn't know what was going on. There were a lot of facist movements and the government didn't try to stop them."

Despite urgently needing help, he said little was forthcoming, despite his desperation to reach family members in the UK.

"In Greece I didn't have anything, literally nothing. In the UK I could be with my family," Ali said.

With the help of charities supporting migrants, he was able to apply for asylum in the UK.

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"It was a big moment, I hadn't seen any members of my family for ages," he said. "When I came to the UK I felt safe, I can breathe here and I can focus on my future."

He pleaded with the government to reconsider stringent new rules which could keep families apart.

"If you lose everything you had, you lose your country, your parents, all you need is a safe place to live," he said.

"The government must put itself in these people's position. I believe it's very important to keep families together."

At the moment Ali is studying at college, while volunteering with charity Safe Passage – which supports child refugees.

Home Secretary Priti Patel says the new immigration policy will be fairer, sparking outrage
(Image: Getty)

Ali said he was "upset and angry" at the government's proposed immigration shake-up, saying: "Refugees aren't only here to take something from the country, they give a lot too and work hard.

"There are a lot of young people who want to join their family in different countries."

Research by the Together With Refugees coalition – which brings together more than 200 organisations – found that two in three women and children that the UK would accept as refugees now would be turned away in future

Sabir Zazai, Together With Refugees spokesperson, herself a refugee, said: “Abandoning people fleeing war and persecution, including women and children, is not who we are in the UK.

"These are mothers escaping war-torn Syria, women fleeing sexual violence in Congo or children escaping life-long conscription into the military in Eritrea. These are people in fear of their lives. These are people like me. These are also people like you, people who want to live in safety and dignity.

“The majority of people in Britain believe in protecting refugees, and the government themselves have said they want to protect the most vulnerable including women and children.

"That’s why we are calling for a more effective, fair and humane approach to supporting refugees. We urge the government to rethink its proposals and stand up for people’s ability to seek safety in the UK, including those who overcame hardship to find any route they could to escape danger.”

The government says that the new rules will prioritise people in "regions of conflict and instability" rather than "those who are already in safe European countries".

In a statement the Home Office said: “We have a responsibility to put the ‘New Plan for Immigration’ into action so that we can fix the broken asylum system, helping people based on need, not the ability to pay people smugglers.

“People should be reassured by our track record – since 2015 we have resettled over 25,000 vulnerable refugees, many women and children so they can rebuild their lives here. We will continue to work closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to ensure those in greatest need get our support."

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