Sat in a studio at London College of Fashion, surrounded by faceless mannequins, bent coat-hangers and ripped fabric, Ammar Alsaker grins indefatigably as he recounts his journey from his home of Damascus to these most unlikely of surroundings.He has a lot to grin about.
After enduring three years of conflict in Syria, he fled Damascus alone for London, a journey that took nine months and saw him negotiate with people-smugglers, pass through Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Belgium, Spain and Scotland, and earn thousands of euro as a translator for the world’s media – all as a teenager.How heartwarming. If you ignore the fact that he was breaking immigration laws.
Once he was granted refugee status, he continued to strive to realise his dreams, applying to universities and repeatedly turning up at Topshop HQ to demand the attention of its most senior executives so that he might land a role with the retailer.
Now 23, in the second year of his bachelor’s degree and working for Topshop, he is focused on his next challenge – to persuade the UK government to relax restrictive rules so he can reunite with his family – including the two-year-old brother he has never met.I don't understand, what's stopping him? Have we confiscated his passport?
Alsaker hopes sharing his story might challenge negative stereotypes of asylum seekers and refugees and win support for calls to change immigration rules that only allow adult refugees to apply for their spouses or children under 18 to join them.Ah. Silly me. He doesn't want to visit them. He wants them to come here. Permanently.
“Some might say ‘well, not all refugees have vision and goals,’” he says. “I just want to say that at the end of the day we are not copies of each other, we are different. People like me came here to be productive and benefit this country.”By first breaking immigration laws, then demanding that we change our laws to benefit you. So we can get the fashion designers we clearly desperately need in the UK.
I don't see much benefit in that deal for me. Does anyone else?