Refugee from Calais Jungle camp still loves Britain despite recent hate crimes


A teenager rescued from the Calais Jungle has claimed his love for Britain is unshaken by the spate of high-profile hate crimes since his arrival six months ago.

Last October, refugee Aemal Khan, 15, was reunited with his brother in London having spent months stranded in the filthy lawlessness of the French migrant camp.

The determination which carried him across thousands of miles, often on foot, to his brother's Hounslow home is now being given a new focus - education.

"When we're on holiday I feel not good, I like college and I like going to college - I like to improve my English," he told the Press Association.

But while the Afghan native spent his first months in the UK exploring culture and burnishing his cricket skills, other young migrants found themselves as targets.

In Croydon, where Aemal first disembarked the coach from Calais, a Kurdish Iranian asylum seeker was this month viciously beaten in an alleged racist gang attack.

A spike in hate crimes was also reported by three-quarters of police forces in England and Wales in the wake of the Brexit vote, fuelling concerns that a tide of anti-immigrant feeling is swelling in the UK.

For Aemal, this depiction of Britain does not represent the country he now calls home.

Speaking through his brother Asif, 26, himself a former resident of Calais's notorious migrant community, he said: "If you are a refugee here we've been accepted by UK people - that's why we're here - this kind of reaction when they take against us, what will they say?

"There's not five fingers that are the same, in refugees there are a lot of bad people, so we can't imagine the British people are like this - there is one person doing the bad things."

"In the UK I've never heard 'I'm a refugee' from anyone else, so here we think of others as equals, that we are the same.

"There is no difference between me or someone else, so that is why the people of the UK are great people."

Asif, a chef who fled their war-ravaged homeland 11 years previously, added: "It wasn't just him, it was a lot of children who came from Calais and the people of England, the Government of England were welcoming to them, so we really appreciate that."

Aemal was transferred to Britain under a Government fast-track scheme designed to protect vulnerable youngsters, leaving the Jungle after around six months.

Days after his departure, the derelict slum was torn down by French authorities.

"The life of Calais, it was always difficulties," Aemal said.

"You want to stay in the queue to get food, so you had to stand around for nearly one hour in the queue to get food.

"There was the difficulties of nights, to eat there, sleep there, so there was always difficulties."

"When you pass the difficult times, you can never forget it, but the thing is I'm here with a lot of friends."

Contact was lost with the boys he lived alongside during these desperate months, until a visit to the Home Office in Croydon last month, when he saw three friends.

He said: "I was so happy when I met them, I was so happy to see them there, they were three friends and we had a lot of difficulties together."

Since October, Aemal has visited tourist sites ranging from Buckingham Palace to Tower Bridge, developed a taste for fish and chips and an interest in scary movies.

He enlisted for college, where he recently received a certificate for excellent performance on his Esol (English for Speakers of Other Languages) course.

His concerns these days are more commonplace.

"I enjoy it in England, but the weather is not good in England," he said.

"We are going with friends to play cricket, we are going to the London Eye - that is why I'm enjoying England."

Under European legislation known as Dublin III, Aemal is able switch his asylum claim to Britain due to his family connection to the country.