|This story has really touched me. As many of you know I work with a lot of young Afghans. This video will open the eyes of anyone who may think the journey to the UK is easy...|
Amazing story of 12 year old Afghan
TEENAGER Gulwali Passarlay has told of his astonishing journey as he fled from war-torn Afghanistan to safety in the UK—travelling alone 7,150 miles, through 10 countries, aged just 12.
Gulwali risked his life and left his family on the harrowing year-long ordeal, which saw him hiding in an engine compartment of a lorry, and crammed into a dangerously overcrowded boat.
He is now 16-years-old and settled in Lostockwith his foster family, whom he was placed with just before Christmas.
Gulwali has produced a short DVD of his incredible journey entitled Journey of Life which he is showing at schools and colleges in Bolton.
He said: "I took a risk to be safe, and am lucky. I am in Bolton, which I love. I have completed 10 GCSEs, even though when I came here I could only speak very little English.
"I made this DVD to explain why people leave their country and their families.
"I want to explain to them about refugees and asylum seekers. They are human beings."
Gulwali's journey began in 2006 when he was persuaded by his mother Razbibi and father Dr Shakrah Ahmed, who lived in Jalalbad, two hours away from Kabul, to leave Afghanistan.
Members of his family had been killed in the war.
His parents paid an agent to help him escape. His brother Hazrat Khan, aged 21, had left earlier.
The youngster travelled by airplane, on foot — including a 25 hour walk from Brussels to France — lorry, coach, train and boat.
Gulwali was put into the care of an agent who was paid to arrange for him to leave Afghanistan by airplane and coach, travelling into Iran where his journey continued in the back of lorry, on horseback, then by train into Bulgaria, where he was found by immigration officials and sent back to Turkey. From Turkey he embarked on the most frightening part of the journey, which at one point he did not think he would survive.
"The boat was for 20 people and there so many of us in there for 50 hours, I could not breathe. There was no food or water. That was hard. I thought many times I was going to die."
Once in Greece, Gulwali sneaked into the engine compartment of a lorry which carried him into Italy.
He said: " I had a bag between me and the engine and that was it. It was so hot. The lorry was going very fast that I thought I was going to fall under the wheels. I knew I was in Italy and I thought I have to get off now. I banged to get attention because I could not hold on any longer and thought I would fall.
"The lorry driver did not hear me at first and when he stopped to check, he looked shocked and confused. I managed to ask for water, even though I could not speak the language.
"In Italy I was arrested by police, which I was happy with, because the first thing they did was take me to a shop to get me food. They were kind and told me I was safe.
"I was put into a children's home, but I knew I had to leave and jumped out of a window to get to Rome."
From Italy he travelled on a lorry to Germany and walked back to France, where he took a coach to Belgium before embarking on a 25 hour trek to Calais.
Gulwali said: "There were times when I thought I was going to die. I felt so alone and thought what am I doing, I should be with my family.
"I missed my mum so much, I cried and thought what was I doing.
In Calais, Gulwali joined the hundreds at the United Nations Camp where he stayed for three months, but he was still determined to make it to the UK.
"One day a person came up to a group of us, holding bananas and said who is coming. I put my hand up and then others followed."
Gulwali arrived in Dover in November 2007, where he filed his asylum claim and was moved to Kent by the Home Office. He lived there for a year before being moved in to a hostel in Manchester. He was resettled in Bolton in 2009.
His brother Hazrat managed to track him down and the two lived together until Hazrat left for Afghanistan in October to help his family.
The teenager was once again left to fend for himself and keep up with his school work at Essa Academy in Great Lever.
Now, he lives with his foster family, Sean and Karen Corless, and speaks to his family in Afghanistan once a week.
Despite a few setbacks, Gulwali has managed to adapt to life well in his adopted country. He said: "I faced racism and people were rude to me.
But people were also kind very kind to me. There were so many positives as well as negatives and I now want to give back for everything I have been given."
Bolton Council's executive member for children's services, Cllr Nick Peel said: "Gulwali's story is so inspiring, and it goes to show the strength of character he has. His journey puts into perspective the quality of childhood that many children take for granted.
"I'm sure it will be quite eye opening for his peers.
His DVD is a brilliant example of how the Youth Opportunities Fund can be used in a really positive way to inspire young people across the borough."
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