Refugee who fled Afghanistan thanks Merseyside for warm welcome

Video report from ITV Granada Reports Correspondent Andy Bonner

A refugee who has settled on Merseyside after fleeing Afghanistan as a child says he is keen to give something back to the local community who have accepted him.

Basir, whose surname we are not publishing for security reasons, was just nine-years-old when he left his home country in fear of his life after the brutal murder of his father.

Known as Baz to his friends, he has been working for Knowsley Council to distribute PPE to vulnerable families during the Covid pandemic.

Baz delivers PPE supplies to a resident in Kirkby Credit: ITV Granada

Baz was forced to leave his home in Mazar-i-Sharif shortly after the US-led invasion of the country in 2001 when his mother feared he may become a target for the Taliban.

As a young boy he left his family behind and fled in the night towards the Iranian border with a 15-year-old friend.

The pair hid in a small room in Tehran for a fortnight before taking a treacherous journey across deserts and mountains into Turkey.

Basir aged 4 or 5 in Afghanistan

"It was a horrible moment. It was really hard," he said. "Me and my friend are the luckiest guys that we got through to Turkey."

Baz lived in the country for nearly 12 years and began his education there, eventually working in the Turkish government as an interpreter to help other refugees.

"I knew they had been through a lot. I knew they came through the same way. I was proud that I could help other people," he said.

Baz's new home is 3,500-miles from where he grew up in Afghanistan Credit: ITV Granada

Baz worked hard to find the money to help the rest of his family make their escape and join him.

After their application for asylum was finally accepted in 2017, he arrived in South Liverpool with his mother, brother and two sisters.

Baz busy packing at work Credit: ITV Granada

Five years later, with support from the Speke Training and Education Centre (STEC), his positive outlook and talent for language has allowed him to blend in to city life so well that it is hard to tell him apart from the locals.

After passing his driving test, mastering English and perfecting the Scouse accent he picked up working as an ambassador in St John's Market, the 24 year old, who has asthma and suffers from the effects of polio, now works as a driver.

He now drives a specially-adapted vehicle and delivers protective equipment for Knowsley Council's PPE team.

"I always tell people who ask about my accent that I can speak five languages: Persian, Farsi, Turkish, English and Scouse," he jokes.

"I didn't have a clue to begin with and had never hear the word 'mate'. Now, nobody believes me when I tell them I am from Afghanistan."

"STEC was a lifeline - it was the thing that introduced me and my family to the city, the culture and the history.

"Now I feel proud of myself and after five years I have achieved so many things."

Baz driving his specially-adapted car Credit: ITV Granada

Mark Ord, the charity's chief executive, said: "Basir has a remarkably positive attitude to life given the obstacles and traumas he has had to deal with when younger. He must be the first Afghan to work as an ambassador in St John's - a place I consider the Golden Temple of Scouse.

"He is a great example of how STEC helps people through our two goals: Relief of Poverty and Advancement of Learning. All the family have used our services, including the foodbank, and his sister has just got another contract to work as a receptionist."

Cllr Louise Harbour, Knowsley Council Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, said: “Basir has overcome significant adversity in his life and now helps others every day as part of his role with Knowsley Council.

"He has settled really well in the region and is prospering in his current role with us. He is a credit to the council and a much loved and valuable member of the team.”

Baz continues to help other refugees and continues to study, taking GCSEs in English and Maths. He hopes to complete an access course then to enrol on a degree in Computer Science.

"My dad always said that study is the best thing, that it can open doors to a new life," he added. "I studied computing in Turkey so my goal is to get back to uni."