Stories The Lightless Sky Earlier this year we had the chance to speak with Gulwali Passarlay who came to the UK seeking asylum when he was just 13 years old. We spoke to him about his experiences as a young person seeking asylum in the UK, his achievements and his hopes for other young asylum seekers and refugees. We will let him introduce himself in his own words… "I am Gulwali Passarlay. Originally from Afghanistan. I have been living in UK for the last ten years at the moment I live in Bolton, Great Manchester. I just graduated from University of Manchester in a degree in politics and social science and I have been travelling the world talking about refugees and trying to find solutions but also create awareness about the refugee crises and how to best help refugees and advocate and converse to their rights. It took me a year to get to the UK. I was in the journey from Afghanistan through half of the world, about eleven thousand miles I travelled. It took me to ten countries. I went through hell, literally: I was in the prison almost in every country I went through and treated very badly. I was very relieved that I was finally here (in the UK) but here I lost hope and that’s the saddest thing. Getting to the UK was supposed to be the final my destination but it was not the end of my journey. I was hoping that I would be treated fairly, just and equally…but I felt a sub human actually less of a human because of bureaucracy system that was in place. The UK was welcoming as a place but there were issues… issues with the authorities with the bureaucracy. To be fair they were nice compared to the rest of those that I had just , but still it took me two years to convince them that I was only 13 years old that I was an Afghan national that I actually went through so much trauma and hiked to make it here. It took me about five years to get the refugee status to be accepted as a refugee by the UK government immigration and the home office. I grew up literally experiencing living in constant fear of being killed by bombings in Afghanistan and I been hiding in bunkers. I have seen things that nobody can imagine. Britain had this huge reputation about justice and independence in judiciary and how human rights are well yield and people are treated with dignity. One of the reasons I was coming here was because my brother was here and also because it was welcoming compared to the countries that I passed… I was hoping that I would be treated fairly, just and equally…but I felt a sub human actually less of a human because of bureaucracy system that was in place. There was system of disbelief in the issues. I was seen as a criminal and a liar. I wish the authorities were more human and compassionate and responsive and treated me as a child. I grew up in a war zone, but there was very little understanding, sense of compassion or reason by part of the official the home office immigration services. And they just saw me as a number, a statistic or just a target. I wish they were more kind they would just treat me as a human being and understood that I had difficult experience getting here. I feel a sense of moral duty on my shoulders because there’s very few speaking about refugees or their experiences Since I got my refugee status I managed to go to school and to college and University. I was able to plan ahead and have normalised life, have some certainty. There was so much people who believed in me and supported me and encourage me to continue and not give up. The UK is a wonderful place (except the weather it’s kind of miserable) but I actually I been lucky enough to travel across Britain. Almost I have been to almost every city and town and even villages across the UK. And it’s a very beautiful place. I never thought or imagined I would write a book. I did some talks and people were ‘like you should write a book’ and I was like ‘OK!’. So my book, 'The Lightless Sky' was published in October 2015 in the UK and subsequently been published in six languages and in seven countries I believe it’s across the world. I feel a sense of moral duty on my shoulders because there’s very few speaking about refugees or their experiences because of the trauma and negativity attached to it. I just want people to know that refugees are normal human beings and also there is a space for all of us. I was encouraged by the suffering. So last year 5, 000 people lost their lives in the Mediterranean. The year before 4,000 and this year thousands so far. For me they are not just numbers, for me they are human beings with dreams and ambitions and aims and I was there, I know how it feels in their situation. I feel their pain and suffering and I want to give them a voice." Gulwali Passerlay, 22 As he mentions Gulwali has written a book ‘The Lightless Sky: An Afghan Refugee Boy's Journey of Escape to a New Life' about his experiences as a refugee. He can also be heard speaking about his experiences at a variety of book readings across the North. For more Young Refugee Voices take a look at the collection on our website by searching for Refugee in the search box above. If you are interested in hearing more from young refugees, why not support our #YoungRefugeeVoices campaign. Find out more here.