A former asylum seeker from Afghanistan has opened up about his journey to the UK which saw him travelling illegally across Europe to find the ‘promised land’ in Nottingham.

It has been 20 years since Fawad Moussavi arrived in the UK in the back of a lorry with three other immigrants. The former asylum seeker is now a 40-year-old family man who has settled in Sherwood, is a father of two and juggles three jobs.

But just like any other immigrant seeking a normal life, Fawad’s freedom was not a given at his birth.

He was born in Afghanistan and lived there with his family for a short period in the 80s, when the Soviet force was intensifying across the country.

Fawad’s family was just one of many that decided to travel all the way to Iran seeking a more peaceful life. He said that he vaguely remembers armed officers and fragments of the difficult journey.

Asked how he felt after leaving his place of birth, he added: “I visited Afghanistan once as a teenager.

“I felt more free in Afghanistan, but let’s face it – Iran is a much safer country than Afghanistan.

“I felt like I did not belong there anymore.

“I do not feel like I betrayed my country – I feel like my country betrayed me.”

Fawad said his family always hoped that at some point they will be able to move back to their home country, but they have never been able to do it due to safety concerns.

While he said that the cultural barriers were not an issue as the two countries are quite similar, the constant fear of being an asylum seeker in Iran haunted his youth.

Like most Afghans who came to Iran and seek asylum, Fawad started working without a contract when he was just 14-years-old.

He was living in a small room with both his parents and five siblings, living a modest life with no encouraging prospects.

He recalls: “We could not afford a normal place to stay for all of us – and that was the case for most Afghans in Iran.

“You are not allowed to work, you do not receive any support from the government.

“Our priority was to survive day by day.

“You get used to it – and the new generation do not even know another way. They did not get to see any other life.

“I did not – but then I came to the UK and, it is not perfect – but it is much better than what I was living in Iran and Afghanistan.”

Fawad knew that he wanted something else for his life since he was a teenager.

He added: “I was 14 and I was working in a shop when I saw immigration officers coming in.

“I had an Afghan asylum seeker card but I did not have it on me.”

Fawad was detained by officers alongside with other hundreds of asylum seekers in an empty room at the border between Afghanistan and Iran.

“I was just a child and there were 200 other men in there.

“I was not doing anything wrong, I just did not have the card on me. But two days later my mum came and picked me up crying.”

That episode marked Fawad’s childhood and this is when he decided he wanted to leave Iran and Afghanistan for Europe in his search for freedom.

Subscribe today to get the latest Notts headlines direct to your inbox – it’s free

Police in Mansfield Road

You can get the latest Nottinghamshire Live headlines straight to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.

Twice a day we’ll send you our top stories, plus breaking news alerts as they happen, in a completely free email bulletin.

To sign up just head to this page and select “Nottinghamshire Live news” – or enter your email into the black box at the top of this story.

In 1999, when he was just 18-year-old, he and his friend paid an “agent” $5,000 to secure their journey to the “promised land”.

It took them six months to finally arrive in Germany in December. But Fawad’s journey did not stop there.

He said: “They took our fingerprints in Czechoslovakia custom, so when that happens, you need to stop your journey and find a shelter in that country.

“At that time it was not a problem and we were still able to go to Germany.

“The situation worsened though – I could not get asylum so I decided to come to the UK.”

The so-called “agents” who deal with assuring immigrants’ travelling to other countries are, in fact human traffickers.

For people like Fawad, there is no other option than approaching them to gain their freedom in Europe.

He spent some time in a camp in Calais, France, and from there he was put in the back of a lorry with four other immigrants.

He added: “I came to the UK in the back of a lorry.

“The driver did not know that we were there.

“He was shocked when he opened the door and found us there.

“We saw a police car at a gas station, and we approached them – they were very friendly.”

He was then sent to Nottingham in 2001 and has since learned the culture and history of the city, settling down in the country that saved him.

Fawad received leave to remain in 2008 and is now doing work for the community to help other immigrants like him.

He added: “I remember that when I got here we were given coupons from the government to buy food.

“I was ashamed to pay with coupons because they knew that I was an immigrant.

“In general, people were friendly and I have never experienced racism here.

“Sometimes you can see it in people’s eyes though and the way they look at you.

“However, they should remember that for us there is no other option.”

Fawad works as a support worker at Refugee Roots and and interpreter Nottingham Refugee Forum, and is also a taxi driver.

He has since built a life in Nottingham, and said he is grateful for everything this country has offered him.