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School of Social Sciences

Plaque unveiled in the School to recognise the role of refugees across the country

Student Gulwali Passarlay is part of a high-profile campaign organised by The Joint Council For The Welfare Of Immigrants #IAmARefugee.

Gulwali Passarlay
Until recently, Gulwali was a student on the Politics and International Relations degree. He has recently published an autobiography and continues to speak out for refugees and young people.

Across the UK today, blue plaques are being put up on buildings where refugees have lived, worked and studied. Our very own Gulwali Passarlay (Politics and International Relations) is part of this initiative to celebrate the contributions of refugees to British society.

His plaque can be found in the Arthur Lewis building in the reception area.

Senior Management at the unveiling of the plaque
Senior staff attended the unveiling of the plaque in the Arthur Lewis building.

The unveiling was attended by Professor Ken McPhail (Associate Dean Social Responsibility), Dr Julian Skyrme (Director of Social Responsibility), Professor Chris Orme (Head of School), Professor Claire Alexander (Director of Social Responsibility SOSS), Alison Wilson (Head of School Admin), Carla Liburd (PA to Head of School).

This initiative is part of a campaign, ‘I am a Refugee’, which was developed by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) to celebrate the contributions of refugees to British society. Plaques will be appearing across the country during Refugee Week (20-26 June 2016) and beyond.

Other individuals whose lives are celebrated include Professor Walter Hayman, Judith Kerr, Rita Ora, Alek Wek, Melody Hossaini, Michael Marks and Dame Stephanie Shirley.

Gulwali Passarlay

Politics and International Relations student, Gulwali Passarlay, was born in 1994 in a village in eastern Afghanistan. When he was seven years old, the 2001 war in Afghanistan broke out. The area he lived in was a Taliban stronghold. Fearing for the safety of her young sons, Gulwali’s mother arranged for people smugglers to bring them, alone, to Europe. Gulwali was 12 years old. What followed was a long and gruelling journey through ten countries, during which he was separated from his brother.

There was quite a lot of racism. People would call me an asylum seeker and say go back to Afghanistan but there were more kind people than bad people.

Gulwali Passarlay / Former Politics and International Relations student

After hearing word that his brother was in the UK, Gulwali followed, arriving in 2007 after stowing away in a truck from Calais. As an unaccompanied minor, Gulwali was subsequently placed with a foster family in Bolton.

Speaking of his early time in the UK, he said, “There was quite a lot of racism. People would call me an asylum seeker and say go back to Afghanistan but there were more kind people than bad people”.

Gulwali excelled in school, gaining ten GCSE’s within just two years of secondary education. He became involved with a number of organisations and forums representing the views of young people, including asylum seekers and children in care. In 2012, he was selected to carry the Olympic torch in Burnley. In 2013, Gulwali began a degree in Politics and International relations at The University of Manchester, which he has just completed.

In 2014, he was granted political asylum by the Home Office, after a long battle to prove his age and nationality. In 2016, Gulwali published an autobiography, The Lightless Sky, about his journey to and life in the UK. He continues to be an outspoken advocate on refugee and youth issues. 

Press enquiries: press@jcwi.org.uk

Illustrating the array of experiences that refugees have had, and the dedication, creativity, skills and knowledge that they bring to their new society, this powerful visual campaign has been designed to help create a positive and balanced debate around the contribution of refugees in the UK. 

Saira Grant / Chief Executive, The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants