The malicious borders bill criminalises asylum seekers and anyone
who helps them
‘Before I died I contemplated how drowning would feel.” So opens Gulwali Passarlay’s 2015 book The Lightless Sky. Passarlay was, in 2006, a 12-year-old boy in a rural village in Afghanistan, caught in the crossfire between Taliban and American forces. After his father was shot dead by US soldiers, his mother paid a smuggler to take Gulwali and his brother, Hazrat, to safety in Europe. It’s the beginning of a gruelling 12,000-mile trek that takes Passarlay from imprisonment in Iran to being thrown off a moving train in Bulgaria and to seeming death on an overcrowded boat from Turkey to Greece. He survives and makes his way across Europe to the “Jungle” migrant camp in Calais, before smuggling himself into Britain in a refrigerated lorry carrying bananas.
Five years later, after another tortuous and byzantine journey, this time through Britain’s asylum and care systems, Passarlay is eventually granted the right to stay. Shortly after that comes a real moment of redemption: he is selected to carry the Olympic torch on its journey to the London 2012 Games. “More than anything,” Passarlay writes, “this book is about faith, hope and optimism. A story of kindness, love, humanity and brotherhood.”