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Happy new year for West Hampstead refugee

PUBLISHED: 09:44 02 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:45 07 September 2010

Afshin Azizan

Afshin Azizan

A refugee who sought asylum in the UK for 14 years while living in West Hampstead has finally won his battle to stay. Afshin Azizian, for whom the Ham&High has campaigned for the right to asylum since 2004, was told of the Home Office s decision three day

A refugee who sought asylum in the UK for 14 years while living in West Hampstead has finally won his battle to stay.

Afshin Azizian, for whom the Ham&High has campaigned for the right to asylum since 2004, was told of the Home Office's decision three days before Christmas.

Now that he has been granted indefinite leave to remain, he has vowed to continue fighting for migrants' and asylum seekers' rights, using his own success as an example to others.

Speaking to the Ham&High, he said: "This is great news for so many people fighting for justice. I have received so many phone calls from all over the world and hundreds of heart-warming emails. It has been very emotional.

"I want this to be an example to show that justice will prevail. Asylum seekers need to stand up to the authorities - they need to understand that every person has the ability to do and achieve so much, and you mustn't let people grind you down."

His life since he arrived here in 1995 has had its share of hardships, weighed down by the constant threat of deportation and Mr Azizian paid tribute to the organisations that have helped him through difficult times.

He said: "If not for the good will of the groups that have helped me I would have been dead long ago. I would like to say thank you to the Ham&High for supporting me all the way, believing in me and never giving up. On behalf of all asylum seekers - I am giving myself the right to do that - I want to say thank you. Without this support I would not be where I am today."

Mr Azizian is a Christian and until this year lived with the Columban Fathers religious group in West Hampstead. He feared he would be executed if he was ever returned to his native Iran because of his religious and political views and his outspoken criticism of the regime.

To mark the Home Office's decision on his future there will be three parties - held by the Migrants Resource Centre, Actors for Human Rights and Amnesty International.

But for Mr Azizian the struggle for justice will not stop now. He is currently busy organising a rally calling for the government to grant amnesty to the migrants and asylum seekers living in the UK so they can become taxpayers.

The aim is to have 40,000 protestors march from Westminster Cathedral to Trafalgar Square on May 4 and half that number have already pledged to take part.

As recently as December 10, 2008, Mr Azizian was asked to speak at a conference held at Amnesty headquarters where he spoke openly with Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, asking him about the circumstances faced by asylum seekers.

But for now he is gathering his strength for the next part of his journey and the battles that lie ahead. He said: "It has been a little bit hard to take in after fighting for so many years, but this is fantastic news. I wish everybody in the Ham&High area a merry Christmas and happy new year."

Editor of the Ham&High Series, Geoff Martin, was also pleased by the decision.

He said: "I'm absolutely delighted Afshin has at last won his long battle. This man had been driven to the depths of despair by the time the Ham&High learned of his plight and it was immediately obvious that he should have the right to remain in this country.

"His own determination and the support of our readers has now been rewarded with the right outcome, but I worry that far too many decent people are being needlessly tormented by a system that treats asylum seekers like criminals. In a country with such proud democratic credentials, it shouldn't be like that.


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