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The Lightless Sky: An Afghan Refugee Boy’s Escape to a New Life

Thursday 7 April 2016

1 Hour


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Former child refugee Gulwali Passarlay tells how he fled Afganistan at the age of 12 and suffered hunger, brutality, prison and near death before making it to a new life in Britain, to a top university and to carrying the Olympic torch in 2012.

Passarlay was sent away at 12 after the death of his father in a gun battle with the US army. He was trafficked into Iran and endured great hardship and cruelty during a 12-month journey across Europe that nearly ended in drowning on a tiny boat in the Mediterranean. Once in Britain he was fostered, went to a good school and won a place at a top university. His memoir, The Lightless Sky, is his own extraordinary story, but it is also a story of adversity that is being repeated across the Middle East and Europe today.

Passarlay has devoted his time to education since arriving in Britain. He is now 21 and studying politics and international relations at the University of Manchester. He was a member of Bolton Youth Council and a member of Children in Care Council. He is a panel member of Youthforia, the North West youth forum, vice-president of the United Afghan Peace Movement and a commissioner of the Children’s Commission on Child Poverty.

Here he talks to writer and journalist Paul Blezard.