Plight of refugees is ignored, but contributions must not be forgotten


Categories: News

MY MUM always remembered a wee German girl who arrived at her primary school in the late 1930s.

“Be nice to Ruth,” the teacher said, “She’s escaped from an evil man in Germany.”

Ruth didn’t speak much English but showed my Mum a wonderful new invention she’d brought with her on the kinderstransport – a pen which didn’t need dipped into ink. It was called a Biró.

Scotland has always opened its arms to those seeking sanctuary on our shores.

I’m proud that in Ochil and South Perthshire we’ve recently welcomed Ukranians, Iranians and Kurds who now call our beautiful part of the world their home.

I do everything I can to highlight the plight of refugees at Westminster – refugees like Elham.

Two years ago Elham was in hiding in Kabul. He was 17 and gay. The Taliban were searching for him to kill him.

He wrote a diary about his life in hiding and published it on line. I read out extracts in the House of Commons. He described his fear and feeling of claustrophobia as Taliban thugs hunted him door to door.

No one outwith a tight circle knew his whereabouts or that he was gay. He had taught himself English and dreamed of escape to the UK.

But the UK Home Office offers no route for an Afghan asylum seeker appealing for sanctuary – even someone, like Elham, in imminent danger of death.

After months sheltered by distant family in Kabul, Elham managed to obtain an Afghan passport, and, in heavy disguise, fled across the border and on to Islamabad. For almost a year he tried desperately and fruitlessly to pursue his asylum claim with the UK Home Office. He describes hiding out in baking temperatures in a rented slum room. He spent his time improving his English and studying for a university entrance exam.

I was immensely moved by his diaries. And so, it seemed, were thousands of others who heard me read extracts in parliament.

A group got together and agreed to pay Elham’s plane ticket to London. They agreed that, if he passed his university entrance exams, they’d cover his fees, accommodation, and living costs.

Elham visited me at the House of Commons last week.

He got into the UK not as a LGBT asylum seeker fleeing for his life – that route has been closed by the UK Government. He’s here as a paying student on a student visa. He dreams of a career as a foreign correspondent.

Elham’s story is one of determination and courage. He misses his Mum and Dad, his siblings (and his Mum’s home cooking). He worries desperately about their safety living under the Taliban.

But he says he feels as if he has come home – to a country whose people have welcomed him and where gay people are able to express their love.

As he puts it “at long last I am free to be me.”

I can’t wait to see the wonderful things this incredible young man is set to achieve.