Together again: British child trapped in Afghanistan reunited with mother in Northampton
It's taken a huge effort to get the little boy out of the Taliban controlled country
By Natalie Bloomer
Last December NN Journal reported on the story of Nadia (at the time we used the name of Samia at her request) who was facing eviction from her social housing.
Nadia arrived in Northampton from Afghanistan in February 2021 to join her husband who had lived in the UK for 20 years. When her spouse visa was issued she was informed that she only had a short period of time to make the journey to the UK or the couple would have to start the process again.
At this point their two year-old son’s British passport had not yet been issued and so they took the difficult decision of leaving him with her brother with the intention of returning to collect him once the paperwork was completed.
Just weeks after Nadia made the trip her husband was taken ill with Covid and in April he died at Northampton General Hospital. Days later she discovered she was pregnant and that she was also facing eviction from her flat by Northampton Partnership Homes because the tenancy was only in her husband’s name.
After NN Journal’s report the West Northants cabinet member for housing Adam Brown stepped in and Nadia was told she could stay in her home. But her problems didn’t end there.
In addition to grieving for her husband and worrying about keeping a roof over her and her expected child’s head she had to watch on as the Taliban took back control of Afghanistan, knowing her son Mustafa was trapped there. Although the child’s British passport had been issued by then, the situation in the country meant she couldn’t return to get him.
With few friends in Northampton, Nadia relied on support from the founder of the Northampton Afghan community group Obaidullah Khushull, known locally as Kush.
He enlisted the help of local Conservative MP for Northampton South Andrew Lewer and Labour councillor for Castle ward Danielle Stone.
Together Lewer’s head of office Art Conaghan and Cllr Stone have worked tirelessly alongside Kush to try to get Mustafa out of Afghanistan. This has included his British passport being smuggled into the country from Pakistan (where somebody had agreed to take it to be passed on) and a network of different organisations which either work in the country or have links there trying to find a route out for the child. Northamptonshire solicitor Michael Orton Jones also prepared paperwork to confirm Mustafa was able to travel without a parent.
“So many people have been working on this, I’ve had meetings with the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence and other organisations but there has been a whole network of people calling on every contact possible,” Art said.
Last Wednesday, after lots of hurdles, news came that a woman was travelling to Northampton from Afghanistan and was willing to bring Mustafa with her.
One of the organisations working with the family has links with staff at Kabul airport and arranged for them to collect Mustafa and escort him through. But it wasn’t all plain sailing.
The woman travelling with Mustafa used her phone to take a picture of him to send to Nadia to let her know they would soon be on their way. This angered Taliban members patrolling the airport who tried to confiscate her phone and began asking questions about what she was doing. She was terrified they would prevent them from travelling but luckily the contacts who had collected Mustafa stepped in and were able to calm the situation down.
At 7am on Friday morning Nadia, Kush, Art and Cllr Stone, waited eagerly at Heathrow airport for Mustafa to arrive.
“It all went really well and Mustafa was so happy to see his mum. It just shows, you should never lose hope,” Cllr Stone told NN Journal as the group arrived back at Nadia’s flat in Northampton.
Balloons hung from the ceiling and children’s toys were scattered across the floor - a vast change from when we first met Nadia as a pregnant widow facing homelessness and desperate to get her son back.
As we spoke Nadia happily bounced her baby girl on her lap while Mustafa played by her feet.
“I am so happy and I’m so grateful to everyone who has helped. I can never thank everyone enough,” she said.
After an incredibly difficult period, she says she is finally feeling settled in Northampton and is looking forward to finding a school for Mustafa.
“I lost my husband and that was my biggest struggle and then I thought I would lose my home. Now I have my children with me and a roof over my head. I have everything I need.”
Although this is a happy ending for Nadia, more British citizens including children are still stuck in Afghanistan.
“What the Taliban is doing there is not acceptable. All humans have rights - people in Afghanistan should expect the same human rights as people in any other country. We have to keep raising awareness about what is happening,” Kush said.
Ahead of a story we plan to run shortly, we would be grateful if you could spare a couple of minutes to take part in our survey about how visible you think policing is in the area where you live.
NN Journal is a reader-supported publication. To receive all of our original reporting from Northamptonshire subscribe below