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Syrian refugee 'so thankful' to be in UK after landmark legal case

Published 22/01/2016

Four Syrian refugees who won a landmark legal case to come to Britain from Calais, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, have arrived in London
Four Syrian refugees who won a landmark legal case to come to Britain from Calais, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, have arrived in London

A Syrian refugee who has been brought to Britain from "The Jungle" in Calais in a landmark case said he feels "so thankful" to be in the UK.

The 17-year-old urged the thousands of refugees waiting to enter Britain to "have faith" and see his case as proof there is a way to reach the UK "legally and safely".

The teenager, who cannot be identified for legal reasons but the Press Association is calling Muhammad, was allowed to enter Britain along with three other refugees who will stay in Britain while their asylum applications are processed.

There were emotional scenes at London's St Pancras station as he was reunited with his older brother, who he last saw in war-torn Syria and who was smuggled into the country in a tomato lorry.

Describing the moment Muhammad said: "I feel so thankful because I would never have imagined I would be reunited with my brother."

The teen also thanked his legal team, who used human rights legislation to argue they should be immediately taken out of the "intolerable" conditions of "The Jungle".

He said: "I thank every person who was part of this process - they have saved lives. They have saved people from death ... I thank Britain as a whole."

The group of three teenagers and a 26-year-old man with severe mental health issues will live with their relatives in the UK while their claims for asylum are considered.

The landmark case could pave the way for many other refugees in the Calais camp to be brought to Britain.

Asked if he had a message for those who remain in camps in France desperate to find safety elsewhere, Muhammad said: "Have faith. There is a way to come here legally and safely."

The refugees' legal team successfully argued that bureaucratic delays in France meant their cases should be handed over to the UK, where they all have relatives legally living. At least one of the group is expected to join relatives in Scotland.

Muhammad's brother described their reunion after spending more than 18 months apart as "so surreal".

Bombarded by barrel bombs and relentless fighting, he decided to flee his family's home town of Daraa in 2014, travelling to Lebanon with his wife and young daughter and on to Europe alone.

He made the final perilous leg of his journey from Calais to Dover smuggled in the back of a refrigerated lorry of tomatoes.

Muhammad made the same treacherous journey across Europe last year and arrived in Calais in October.

He said there had been times when he was close to losing hope that he would ever get refuge in Britain.

"But then slowly slowly because of the conviction of my brother and the lawyers I slowly started to have faith and began to become hopeful I would be reunited with my families."

The teenager said conditions in "The Jungle" were so bad that it was "not fit for humans".

Poor sanitation meant sickness was rife among many in the camp and its inhabitants felt helpless and shared a "great sense of depression" over the length of time they had spent there.

"It is just awful," he said.

Muhammad said he had achieved his "main hope and aspiration" by finally being reunited with his brother and now wanted to continue his education and achieve his dream of becoming a lawyer.

"I want to help people like lawyers have helped me," he said.

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