A REFUGE who has fled war-torn Afghanistan has spoken of his experience settling in Sussex.
Naqeeb Saide escaped from Kabul four years ago at the age of 16.
He had to leave his family and apply for asylum at Gatwick Airport. He was taken into foster care in Brighton and given the right to stay in the UK.
Now 20 years old, he lives in Worthing and stands up for refugees.
He is shocked by the hateful reaction to migrants who risk their lives while crossing the Channel.
Naqeeb dreams of being able to go home one day, when it is safe.
This he said to reporter Laurie Churchman.
‘I miss home. It’s so hard – I don’t know how to put it into words.
“I cannot go back because of the situation in Afghanistan. One day I really hope I can. I miss my homeland.
“It’s been two or three years since I last heard from my parents. I have lost contact with them and I don’t know where they are.
“They lived in Kabul. My brother in England has tried to find them through the Red Cross and the Community Center here, but we have no news.
“When I left, there was a lot of violence. There were so many explosions.
‘It hasn’t gotten better. People are afraid to leave their homes.
My dad decided it would be safer for us to get out.
“I never wanted to leave my parents. They only sent me to England and said they would follow the next day.
But they never came.
“I was 16 when I arrived at Gatwick Airport. It was difficult to get the right to stay here – get an interpreter and handle letters from the Home Office. The process was difficult and took ages.
But a refugee charity in Brighton, The Hummingbird Project, helped me and did [Brighton Pavilion MP] Caroline Lucas. She contacted the Ministry of the Interior.
“Now I am legally allowed to stay in the UK.
“It was a challenge in the beginning. It was a new country with a new culture. I was separated from my family.
“At home I had my mother, father and my brother. In England I realized that I would have to do everything myself.
But slowly things started to get better.
“I stayed with a foster family in Brighton and started making friends through table tennis.
“I had never played, but there was a club for refugees – the Brighton Table Tennis Club – and I loved it.
“It was not just any game. It was the first place where no one asked me where I was from.
“Then my brother started coming from London to visit me in Brighton and I started to feel at home.
“The biggest challenge was the language and culture and doing things differently here. I missed the food in my country. And at home you don’t have to search to find friends.
“Now I have finished my studies and I am working with The Hummingbird Project. I spend most of my time in my education and charity work and I hope to study.
“My experience is that people are welcome in Brighton, Worthing and Sussex. The community is so supportive.
“But I have heard from other refugees that they were bullied by gangs in the street because of their skin color. I was afraid to go out at night.
‘I wish people would imagine walking in our shoes. It can be very painful.
“I want to tell people here that refugees are good – we give something back. If you disagree, have a chat with a refugee. It can change your mind.
“It was shocking to see how people deal with refugees crossing the Channel.
“They put themselves in danger if they come here. Imagine it was your son or daughter who made that trip.
“It’s just not fair – there is no other way for them to get to a safe country. The government must protect their rights – not make them endanger their lives. ”
De Argus would like to thank the Refugee Media Center for helping to get in touch with Naqeeb Saide.
The network of refugees and asylum seekers is voluntary to represent displaced voices in the news.
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