'I feel like I am in a desert with no food': The Afghan children who remain in UK without parents

Rachel Townsend sat down with Wasim two years on from the Taliban regaining control of Afghanistan

"I feel like I am in a desert with no food."

For an 11-year-old to articulate such an analogy is impressive.

Even more so when you consider this is an 11-year-old who has witnessed the most unimaginable trauma.

Wasim was just nine when in August 2021, he and tens of thousands of others gathered at Kabul airport, desperately trying to escape the Taliban who had just regained control of the country.

His father was in possession of papers that would allow Wasim, his mother, his four brothers and two sisters to be resettled in the UK.

People protesting in Parliament Square in London on anniversary of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Credit: PA

They had waited at the airport, in overwhelming crowds for over a week, mistakenly thinking their papers would soon be processed and that they would be airlifted to safety. And then, just yards from where they were standing, a bomb exploded.

"It was a bad time," says Wasim.

"There was a lot of crying, dead people, people who lost their legs and their arms.

"That is when I lost my mum and dad. I looked around and I couldn’t recognise them anywhere."

The bomb detonated close to the area Wasim and his family had been waiting.

Wasim has now not seen his family in two years. Credit: ITV News

Instinctively, everyone ran. Wasim made it over a stream of water, filled with sewage, but his mum, dad, brothers and sisters did not.

Wasim was holding his baby cousin at the time. They were swept up by his uncle and then guided to safety.

They boarded a plane believing that their family would follow.

Two years on, they are still waiting.

"My life here is hard. I miss my brothers and sisters, especially my little sister because I played with her the most."

With tears in his eyes, Wasim remembers his life in Afghanistan.

"I was never far from my parents, always with my mum and dad, I would never go out without them.

"And now I have not seen them for two years."

The UK government doesn’t know how many children there are in Britain like Wasim, brought here from Afghanistan and now living here without their parents.

They don’t seem to have any clear plan as to how to reunite families.

Instead a government spokesperson repeatedly tells us: "The UK has a proud history of providing protection for those in need through our safe and legal routes.

"We are working hard to reunite Afghans resettled through ACRS with their eligible family members."

Taliban mark the second anniversary of their takeover of the country in Kabul. Credit: AP

But the Refugee Council says no safe or legal routes for those separated through these resettlement programmes have been established.

Their Chief Policy Analyst Jonathan Featonby told ITV News: “It can’t be right that two years on from that evacuation these families have no safe way of being able to be reunited.

"It would mean that their parents can be with their children again and that these children can have their parents here to support them as they try and rebuild their lives."

Wasim explained what it would mean to be reunited with his family here in Britain.

"If they could come here I would feel like God has given me a second chance."

And children like Wasim deserve a second chance.

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