A REFUGEE who fled war-torn Afghanistan has spoken about his experience of settling in Sussex.

Naqeeb Saide escaped Kabul four years ago at the age of 16.

He had to leave his family behind and claimed asylum at Gatwick Airport. He was taken into foster care in Brighton and granted the right to stay in the UK.

Now, aged 20, he lives in Worthing and speaks up for refugees.

He has been shocked by the hateful reaction to migrants risking their lives as they cross the Channel.

Naqeeb dreams of being able to return home one day, when it's safe.

This is what he told reporter Laurie Churchman.

The Argus:

"I miss home. It’s so difficult – I don’t know how to put it into words.

“I can’t go back because of the situation in Afghanistan. One day, I really hope I can. I miss my homeland.

“It’s been two or three years since I last heard from my parents. I lost contact with them and I don’t know where they are.

“They were living in Kabul. My brother in England has been trying to find them through the Red Cross and the community centre here, but we’ve had no news.

“When I left, there was lots of violence. There were so many explosions.

“It hasn’t got better. People are scared to leave their homes.

“My dad decided it would be safer for us to get out.

“I never wanted to be leave my parents. They sent me to England alone and said they would follow the next day.

“But they never came.

“I was 16 when I got to Gatwick Airport. It was hard getting the right to stay here – finding an interpreter and dealing with letters from the Home Office. The process was difficult and it took ages.

“But a refugee charity in Brighton, The Hummingbird Project, helped me and so did [Brighton Pavilion MP] Caroline Lucas. She contacted the Home Office.

“Now, I’m legally allowed to stay in the UK.

“At first it was a challenge. It was a new country with a new culture. I’d been separated from my family.

“Back home, I had my mum, dad and my brother. In England, I realised I would have to do everything myself.

“But slowly, things began to get better.

“I stayed with a foster family in Brighton, and began to make friends through table tennis.

“I’d never played before but there was a club for refugees – the Brighton Table Tennis Club – and I loved it.

The Argus:

“It wasn’t just a game. It was the first place no one asked me where I came from.

“Then, my brother started coming down from London to visit me in Brighton and I began to feel at home.

“The biggest challenge was the language and culture and doing things a different way here. I missed the food in my country. And back home, you don’t have to look to find friends.

“Now, I’ve finished college and I work with The Hummingbird Project. I spend most of my time on my education and charity work and I’m hoping to go to university.

The Argus:

“In my experience, people are welcoming in Brighton, Worthing and Sussex. The community is so supportive.

“But I have heard from other refugees that they were bullied by gangs in the street because of their skin colour. I was scared to go out in the evening.

“I wish people would imagine walking in our shoes. It can be really painful.

“I want to tell people here that refugees are good – we are giving something back. If you disagree, have a chat with a refugee. It might change your mind.

“I’ve found it shocking seeing the way people treat refugees who cross the Channel.

“They put themselves in danger coming here. Imagine if it was your son or daughter making that journey.

“It’s just not fair – there’s no other way for them to get to a safe country. The government needs to protect their rights – not make it so they have to put their lives at risk.”

The Argus thanks the Refugee Media Centre for helping us get in touch with Naqeeb Saide.

The network of refugees and asylum seekers volunteers to represent displaced voices in the news.