By Aasma Day
A Syrian refugee who was seen being attacked in a video which went viral approached his MP a few weeks ago in person, begging for protection from bullying, HuffPost UK has learned.
In the footage, which has been watched more than 10 million times since Tuesday and retweeted 90,000 times, the 15-year-old boy was pushed to the ground before having water poured on his face.
The incident happened at the Almondbury Community School in Huddersfield on October 25, and was reported to police the following day.
West Yorkshire Police confirmed on Wednesday that a 16-year-old boy has been summoned to court to be charged with assault over the incident.
The victim and his family are refugees from Syria and are believed to have settled in Huddersfield two years ago.
Their local MP, Barry Sheerman, told HuffPost UK that the 15-year-old came to his office in Huddersfield in late October asking for help.
Sheerman told HuffPost UK: “The young man himself turned up at my office and told me he was being bullied and appealed for my help.
“His father does not speak any English and his mother speaks very little English, but the boy is quite fluent, so decided to come to me in person.
“I am glad he felt he could come to me and we immediately swung into action.”
Sheerman, who started an all-party parliamentary group on bullying and has chaired the children, schools and families committee for 10 years, says he got in touch with the headteacher of the school who took immediate action. He said he also informed the council leader at Kirklees, and the head of children’s services.
Sheerman added: “This young boy grew up in disturbed circumstances in a very dangerous environment and he came to England thinking it would be a haven of peace and instead found himself a victim of bullying.
“We are deeply concerned this incident has happened on our patch.”
The MP says he has been heartened by the huge outpouring of support for the Syrian boy.
A GoFundMe page launched on Tuesday night to raise money for the teenager and his family has already surpassed £76,000, with donations sent in from 39 countries, and people have been flooding social media with offers of support, gifts and invites to football games.
Sheerman said: “The wellspring of warmth towards this youngster is very moving. The only invitations we don’t want the family to take up are offers to move them elsewhere in the country such as Oxford.
“We don’t want them to move. It is disgraceful they were treated like this and we want to put it right and for them to feel this is their home.”
Jon Beech, director of Leeds Asylum Seekers Support Network, said many refugees in the UK experience discrimination on a daily basis, and added that he believes the situation has escalated since Brexit and the referendum vote.
“When they come to the UK, they face challenges such as finding work, learning English and being accepted as equals by members of society who fear people who are unfamiliar,” he said.
“Unfortunately, there is an increased feeling in the UK that people who come from outside this country should be treated less equally than those who were born in the UK.”
Mohammed Tahir started the GoFundMe page, which has been verified by the site, after seeing the video of the Syrian boy. He said the family are doing well and have been overwhelmed by the support. He will be going to meet them at the weekend.
John Coventry, head of communications at GoFundMe, said: “There has been a remarkable outpouring of support and Mohammed has done an outstanding job of keeping everyone updated on the progress of the campaign.
“We’re fortunate at GoFundMe to see hundreds of incredible acts of kindness and solidarity every day – but the response to this case has been extraordinary.
“We wish him and his family all the very best for the future.”
Trevor Bowen, headteacher at Almondbury Community School, sent a letter out on Wednesday to parents saying: “The safety and welfare of students is our number one priority and I can assure you that this situation is being taken extremely seriously.
“The matter is subject to an ongoing police investigation and, as I am sure you understand, we must be guided by the authorities in the amount of detail we are able to provide.
“Since the incident occurred in October, the school, the local authority and the police have all taken action. We must allow the legal process to take its course, but I want to be absolutely clear that we do not tolerate unacceptable behaviour of any sort in our school.”
A spokesman from West Yorkshire Police said: “A 16-year-old youth has been interviewed and reported for summons, for an offence of assault. He will appear at Youth Court in due course.
“The victim and his family are receiving ongoing support from police and other agencies. Safeguarding measures have been put in place for the victim and his family.”
The police also confirmed that they investigated a previous unconnected incident on October 7 in which the victim suffered a wrist injury. Three youths were interviewed. No further police action was taken and the matter was referred to the school.