The family of an 11-year-old Afghan refugee stranded in France after being separated from his parents in the Kabul airport bombing have accused Priti Patel of making ‘false promises’ of safe routes to the country. UK.
Qamar Jabarkhyl, a 28-year-old British citizen, said his “heart melts” when his younger cousin, Obaidullah, calls him crying every day from the small flat where he is staying in Strasbourg.
Obaidullah and his parents, along with his twin brother and older sister, fled their hometown of Jalalabad when the Taliban took over last summer.
They wanted to fly to the UK to stay with Mr Jabarkhyl but were separated while waiting to board a plane when a bomb exploded outside the airport on the 26th august.
Mr Jabarkhyl told the PA news agency: “It looked like total chaos from what Obaidullah told me. He was holding his twin brother’s hand and they ran to the gates (of the airport) one and their family ran the other way.
He believes the brothers were flown to Doha, where, exhausted from the trip, Obaidullah fell asleep and got lost when his twin went to the bathroom.
The youngster, then 10, was woken up and driven in another direction by strangers who promised he would meet his brother on the plane, his cousin said.
But he was mistakenly sent on a separate flight to France, where he has been stuck “unhappy and scared” for eight months, said Mr Jabarkhyl, an engineer.
A 22-year-old Afghan refugee living in a studio in Strasbourg has taken Obaidullah under his wing, but works long hours and cannot afford full-time care.
In March, a family reunification visa application was submitted for Obaidullah on the advice of the Interior Ministry, which promised it would be processed quickly, Mr Jabarkhyl said.
In the same month, Obaidullah had his 11th birthday, thousands of miles from his loved ones for the first time.
“It was really hard. I asked the guy he lives with to buy him a birthday cake but he said he was crying all day. He wouldn’t even cut his own cake,” said Mr Jabarkhyl.
“It melts your heart when an 11-year-old boy calls 20 times a day just to say ‘hello’ and ‘hi.’
“He’s not the same boy I would talk to on the phone in Afghanistan years ago, telling me hundreds of stories about his friends, about the vegetables his family grows in their garden.”
Four months later, the family say the Home Office has still not confirmed whether Obaidullah will be able to stay with them in the UK.
“I just feel like the Home Office doesn’t even care, with these empty promises that Priti Patel is making to let Afghans settle in the country,” Mr Jabarkhyl said.
Obaidullah’s parents and sister could not be evacuated and moved to rural Afghanistan after Jalalabad was overrun by the Taliban, while his twin made it safely to the UK, a said the cousin.
The youngster is desperate to reunite with his brother and possibly the rest of his family, but his mother is terrified that he will never see any of her sons again, according to Mr Jabarkhyl.
“She thinks she will never see them again. She thinks she will be killed or they will be killed,” he said.
It comes after Mr Jabarkhyl’s constituency MP Bob Blackman raised Obaidullah’s case in the House of Commons, describing the bureaucracy surrounding biometric cards and apps as “a nightmare”.
Up to 20,000 refugees are expected to arrive as part of the ACRS, with people and families who have been brought to safety in Operation Pitting – Britain’s first military rescue mission – given priority in the first part from the program.
The two remaining pathways will include allowing the British Council and at-risk security providers to be resettled in the UK and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to also refer refugees for resettlement.
The Home Office has been contacted for comment.