Meet the 17-year-old refugee living in Harrogate who was trafficked and fled from Libya

Abbas  with Nina Smith from Ascential at the awards ceremony.
Abbas with Nina Smith from Ascential at the awards ceremony.
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An inspirational teenager who was born in Sudan and later fled Libya, finally seeking refuge in Harrogate, has been recognised for his educational efforts since arriving here.

Rossett School student, Abbas Hassan, 17, has been presented with the Ascential Educational Achiever of the Year award in the Prince’s Trust and TKMaxx & Homesense Yorkshire awards ceremony.

Having fled Libya, where he was trafficked as a worker, Abbas arrived at the Calais Jungle before he was brought to England by The Red Cross.

For the last year, Abbas has been living with Harrogate foster parents, John and Heather Rowe.

John said: “We have known him since he came to Harrogate so we know what he has done since he arrived here but he doesn’t talk much about what happened to him before.

He added: “You wouldn’t really know there was anything special to meet him, he’s very calm and collected it’s only when you stop and think that you realise how much he has changed and achieved.

“He was trafficked on farms as a labourer for most of his childhood. He’s only had a normal life if you like in the last two years. Now he has friends and goes out on his bike in the evening, he plays football with various groups and does all of the normal stuff that teenage lads do.”

Around the same time that Abbas was moved from council care into his new foster family, he was also given a place at Rossett School.

But before his time in Harrogate, Abbas had not spent any time in education and was unable to read or write in Arabic, let alone English.

John said: “He does English and Maths but he has been put about two years behind his age range because he has never been schooled before.

“Because of that, it’s hard to get your head around it when you get maths homework - you have to go back about four concepts just to explain because he’s never done anything like that.”

But in one short year, Abbas has adapted and achieved so much. Recognising his hard work, his teacher put him forward for the award.

John said: “His teacher put him forward for the Princes Trust award because of what he is doing in school and how he has adapted. He has achieved so much since he got here, he’s already been able to sit a fairly basic exam.”

But John, who explained that he and Heather were completely new to fostering when they took on Abbas, said the experience has been a privilege for them too.

He said: “It’s a really good experience and it’s interesting to contrast their attitude to English kids’ attitudes. They have a real hunger to be educated and transform their lives.

"They can see the value of it and they have seen the consequences of not having a job or an education so it’s quite refreshing to see that.”