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Prince William hears heartbreaking stories from Afghan refugees

The Duke of Cambridge visited Leeds on Tuesday

prince william leeds visit© Alamy / Getty
Danielle Stacey
Online Royal CorrespondentLondon
November 30, 2021
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The Duke of Cambridge learned about the frightening experiences of Afghan refugees, as he stepped out in Leeds on Tuesday.

Prince William, 39, paid a visit to the city to celebrate the welcoming, diverse, resilient communities across the region who are coming together to support those in need.

At a hotel, the father-of-three spoke with refugees recently evacuated from Afghanistan, as they rebuild their lives in the UK. 

William heard from Haroom Shahab, 33, who worked as a firefighter at Kabul airport, who was with his wife, Zehra Akbarti, 28.

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WATCH: Prince William hears heartbreaking stories from Afghan refugees

He told the Duke how he and his family had to wait for 28 hours at the airport to move just 200 metres in order to get on a plane to the UK.

Mr Shahab described scenes at the airport, saying: "They were running, they were desperate, in front of the oncoming aircraft. That was very hard for us. We were trying to get out of the country because our lives have 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."

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prince william leeds© Photo: Getty Images

The Duke of Cambridge heard from refugees about their experiences

Speaking about relocating to the UK, 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. They are supporting us with food, clothing, education. We are very happy here, I am hoping that I may be able to get my old job back as a firefighter.

"But I am worried for my colleagues left behind. They are being killed and their families hunted down."

The Duke heard about the different roles played by the local authority, the hotel, community organisations and charities and saw first-hand how these groups work together to provide for the various needs of Afghan refugees.

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prince william meets families leeds© Photo: Getty Images

The Duke heard about the vital work of the community in Yorkshire

From simple donations of toiletries or unneeded clothes, through to more organised provisions of material or other support, individuals and communities across Yorkshire have come together to welcome those in desperate need of support as they fled Afghanistan. While local authorities and larger charities, such as the Refugee Council, have organised housing, advice on how to integrate and settle into life in the UK, and mental health and childcare support for those that need it.  

The Duke told families who had been forced to leave behind everything they knew and loved, sometimes with just hours or even minutes notice: "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's engagement comes after the Duchess of Cambridge met military personnel who supported the UK's efforts to evacuate civilians from Afghanistan, back in September.

Later in the day, the Duke also visited CATCH, a youth-led charity based in the Harehills area of Leeds, which provides young people with a safe space to explore a range of recreational activities.

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