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06/16/2017

Syrian Grenfell victims: thousands urge UK to give parents emergency visa

Mohammed Alhajali was living in Grenfell Tower with his brother, Omar. Photograph: Handout/Reuters

WVN – (The Guardian) Thousands of people have signed an online petition to get the parents of two Syrian refugees affected by the Grenfell fire, one killed and the other injured, to the UK.

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Mohammed Alhajali, 24, an engineering student who fled Syria three years ago, was the first victim to be identified. He is believed to have died in the blaze. His older brother Omar, a 25-year-old business student, was taken to hospital after escaping the blaze. He stayed in contact with Mohammed, who was still trapped inside the flat.

A change.org petition is calling for the government to grant an emergency visa to the brothers’ parents to allow them to come to the UK for Mohammed’s funeral and visit Omar in hospital.

The brothers, along with other members of their family, including two sisters and another brother, Hashem, reportedly came to Britain from Daraa, near Damascus in southern Syria, during the revolution against the president, Bashar al-Assad. They arrived three years ago and were given asylum in Britain.

Mohammed’s friend Mahmoud, who lived with the brothers, spoke to the Guardian when Mohammed’s loved ones hoped he might be found. Mahmoud, who last spoke to his friend at about 3.30am on the night of the fire, said: “He was saying please help me. Please tell my family I love them. He sounded very scared.”

The petition pages said Mohammed’s last words to his brother were: “The smoke is getting in, the smoke is getting in, we are going to die, we are going to die.” Close friends of Mohammed told Middle East Eye that he was in contact with them until about 5am.

The petition page, set up by Mirna Ayoubi, reads: “Before dying, Ali asked his friends to tell his family in Damascus that he loves them. After leaving Syria, he had not seen his family for five years and was forced to limit communication to ensure their safety amid the crackdown against the opposition.”

Firefighters use a hydraulic lift to inspect Grenfell Tower

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Firefighters use a hydraulic lift to inspect Grenfell Tower, where Mohammed and Omar lived together. Photograph: Hannah Mckay/Reuters

It added: “His parents have applied for an emergency visa to visit Omar, their son, in hospital and attend their son Mohammed’s funeral. Please help us collect as many signatures as possible to get them to the UK.”

Over 4,000 supporters from around the world have already signed to show their support. Dozens have also left messages. Zainab Shaher, from Camden in London, said: “I’m signing this because his parents have the right to say goodbye for the last time. Because Mohammed did his best to start a new life here in the UK and because enough is enough. It would be heartless if the family were not given this opportunity.”

Lilian Hill, from Kos, Greece, wrote: “I’m signing because … I’m a mother and would want to do this if it were my children … but also because we are all human beings … Can’t imagine the pain & grief of their family.”

Culled from The Guardian

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