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William tells Afghan refugees ‘you couldn’t be more welcome’ in the UK

·5-min read

The Duke of Cambridge has praised the bravery of Afghan refugees starting new lives in the UK, saying “you couldn’t be more welcome”.

William talked to Afghans who risked their lives to work for the British Government and their families, telling them on Tuesday: “Thank you for all you have done for us.”

The prince was visiting a hotel in Leeds which is being used to accommodate refugees evacuated from Kabul following the Taliban takeover.

The Duke of Cambridge visits Leeds
The Duke of Cambridge watched young children play during the visit (Danny Lawson/PA)

He told families: “The most important thing is that you are safe now. You have a bright future.

“You couldn’t be more welcome.

“Thank you for all you have done for us.”

William was greeted by cheers and applause and then sat down with two families who escaped Kabul in September.

Haroom Shahab, 33, and his wife, Zehra Akbarti, 28, told the royal visitor how they had to wait for 28 hours at the airport to move just 200 metres in order to get on a plane.

The Duke of Cambridge visits Leeds
The Duke of Cambridge talked to refugees about their experiences (Danny Lawson/PA)

Mr Shahab described “horrific” scenes, with thousands of desperate people running towards the runways, leaving the planes unable to land.

“They were running, they were desperate, in front of the oncoming aircraft. That was very hard for us,” he said.

“We were trying to get out of the country because our lives has been torn to shreds.

“When we got to the UK we finally knew we would be safe. The Taliban are killing people without compassion – policemen and their families just gunned down.

“Anyone with a link to British or NATO forces or government.”

The Duke of Cambridge visits Leeds
The Duke of Cambridge speaks to refugees (Danny Lawson/PA)

Firefighter Mr Shahab said: “We are now starting to make a life here for us. The people love us, they have been so kind to us.”

He said: “But I am worried for my colleagues left behinds. They are being killed and their families hunted down.”

William asked him: “It must be very difficult trying to build your new life here while you are so worried about them.”

Mr Shahab told the prince how the Taliban had taken his parents “when they came round looking for me.”

“There is a lot of fear, a lot of worry still,” William said.

The Duke of Cambridge visits Leeds
Refugees waved flags as the Duke of Cambridge left the hotel in Leeds (Danny Lawson/PA)

The hotel, which is not being named for security reasons, houses up to 175 people at any one time as they find permanent accommodation.

Hussain Saeedi Samangan, 38, who worked as a political secretary at the British Embassy in Kabul, told the William he felt very welcome in Yorkshire and was optimistic off a “bright, exciting future” in the UK.

He was accompanied by his wife, Masooma, 31, who had been editor-in-chief of a newspaper in Kabul, and sons Daniel, 10, and Arian, one, who entertained the royal visitor with his antics.

William asked whether they thought the “new” Taliban would be a different regime.

Shaking his head, he said: “No. We know what the Taliban wants, we know they have not changed and that we couldn’t trust them.”

He said: “We are settling in well, we are making friends. Daniel said to me this morning he had made 11 friends at school.”

“Eleven friends?” William said, “You have more than I have, Daniel.”

The prince ended his visit meeting families who had successfully relocated to the UK some years ago, including Omidullah Ahmadi, 32 – who had worked as a translator for British militar – and his wife, Santga, 26.

William said: “Everyone over here feels connected to you. There’s a lot of love for you and your families.

“What you have had to give up and what you have achieved here. You are a shining example for those following you now.”

Enver Solomon, chair of the Refugee Council, said: “What you are seeing in Leeds is a shining example of what has been been done across the country to give these families the best possible welcome.”

The Duke of Cambridge visits Leeds
The Duke of Cambridge plays table tennis during a visit to CATCH, a youth-led charity based in the Harehills area of Leeds (Phil Noble/PA)

William also visited CATCH, a youth-led charity based in the Harehills area of Leeds which helps young people in an area with high levels of antisocial behaviour.

He played table tennis at the centre which provides recreational activities for its young members.

CATCH provides a weekly activity session for children evacuated from Afghanistan, giving young refugees the opportunity to socialise and integrate in a relaxed, fun setting.

The Duke of Cambridge visits Leeds
The Duke of Cambridge met goats during a visit to CATCH (Phil Noble/PA)

The centre offers pool tournaments, computer games, movie nights, sports activities, a gym, poly-tunnels where horticulture can be taught and a community cafe which is open to the public.

The duke also met some of the centre’s pet goats and the young people who care for them.

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