An Afghan migrant, whose brother was murdered by the Taliban, says he still plans to make the dangerous journey across the Channel to get his family to Britain, even if UK flights begin taking asylum seekers to Rwanda.
It comes as the UK has signed a new treaty with the African nation which Number 10 hopes will get its flagship policy back on track.
Wasir, a former interpreter for British forces in Helmand, has been given hope that his family’s journey will be successful by the safe arrival of his younger brother in Britain last Thursday, despite his boat taking on water.
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Wasir has already paid smugglers, which he hopes will end in him, his wife and their five children, aged between one and nine, also getting to the UK sometime next year.
They attempted to leave Afghanistan as Kabul fell to the Taliban in 2021 but were unsuccessful.
Wasir’s older brother Nasir had already been killed by its fighters.
He’s asked us to protect his younger brother’s identity, so we’re calling him Omar.
Video filmed by Omar from the Channel crossing shows men clinging to the side of a small dinghy as children and a woman huddle inside the boat.
Wasir said he had a brief phone call from Omar saying the boat had begun taking in water but they had all arrived in the UK safely.
For Omar, it was the culmination of over a year of travelling, from Afghanistan into Turkey, through the Balkans into Switzerland and then France.
The UK was always his intended destination. “Other European countries are not accepting Afghans,” Wasir says.
“[The] UK is the country which pays attention to human rights – especially [in] the UK, people pay attention to the human rights and respect humans.
“So for various reasons, many people are taking the risk and going to the UK for safety.”
It’s a view he stands by despite the UK government signing a treaty with Rwanda, which Home Secretary James Cleverly insists addresses all of the reasons which led the Supreme Court to deem the asylum policy unlawful.
On 15 November, the UK’s top court blocked the plan over fears genuine refugees could be wrongly sent back to their countries of origin where they would face persecution.
In a bid to rectify this, the new treaty means British and Commonwealth judges will preside over a newly-established appeals process within Rwanda’s high court for exceptional cases.
Another key measure is a commitment that no-one will be removed by Rwanda to any other country other than to the UK.
“Yes, I am really worried about that [the treaty]. I request it to stop,” Wasir says. But he says migrants remain hopeful the planes will not take off.
“The only hope they have is those people who [are] in the UK and fighting against this,” he says.
“They believe those people who are challenging the government, they can provide safety to them.”
Wasir says even if the UK has begun sending migrants to Rwanda, people in his position will still risk the boat trip over to Britain.
“The people don’t have any other way, unfortunately,” he says. “For what they have to do. They don’t have any other way.”
Additional reporting by Nick Stylianou, communities producer