August 19, 2022

I was an illegal Afghan refugee – now I’m competing to be Miss England

3 min read


A beauty queen competing to be Miss England has revealed that she is a former refugee who fled Afghanistan with her family at the age of three – and struggled for ten years to find protection.

Tejasvi Lydia Nasiri, 26, recounts how after her escape, her mother Brishna worked for two years in Russia to pay people-smugglers for their passage, first by canoe to Poland, then to Germany.

Miss England candidate Lydia Nasiri reveals she is a former refugee who fled Afghanistan at the age of three

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Miss England candidate Lydia Nasiri reveals she is a former refugee who fled Afghanistan at the age of threecredit: Celebrity Pictures
Lydia recounts how after her escape her mother Brishana worked for two years in Russia to pay people-smugglers for her passage

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Lydia recounts how after her escape her mother Brishana worked for two years in Russia to pay people-smugglers for her passagecredit: Celebrity Pictures

And he remembered the moment when he, his mother and four-year-old sister Surya were piled into the boat.

Lydia, who was only five at the time, said: “It was one of those plastics you pump up. It was not safe.

“But there was no time to talk things through — it was now or never.

“It was, ‘Quick, jump on this boat, because we don’t know if anyone else will.’

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“The hardest part was knowing that my life could end at any moment, that I could lose my mother. I was holding his hand all the time, not knowing what would happen. But we thought that if we went back to Afghanistan, we would die.

“We were fighting for everything we wanted while pursuing safety and peace.

“Europe represented to us peace and life rather than death. And my mother was determined that we would make it.

Born in Kabul, Lydia came to the UK legally via Holland in 2011 and has permanent citizenship here.

And she says entering the Miss England pageant is “not about being beautiful. It’s all about what I’ve endured over the years—that struggle, and all that I lost.”

He recalled how his family’s nightmare began in 1995 when the extremist Taliban came to power.

Fearing for their safety, their mother Brishana decides to flee to Iran with her daughters.

Soon after, he traveled by train to Turkmenistan and then to Russia.

Subsequent travel saw him traveling with a large group of refugees from Russia to Poland, often on foot, carrying some of his belongings.

Sometimes they were asked to pack in large lorries that smugglers took under their control, packed so tightly together that there was barely room to breathe.

Lida said: “When we finally arrived in Poland, we were put in a huge gym hall and everyone gathered waiting for the next move.

“That was one of the toughest times, because everyone was scared.

“We all thought that if we were forced to return, we would die.”

After escaping exile from Poland, the family traveled the coast, then by sea to neighboring Germany by canoe.

He then claimed asylum in the Netherlands in 2001.

Lydia said: “About six years later they told us we could stay and gave us Dutch citizenship. In the end, we were all done, we were safe.”

Now working in public relations, Lydia entered Miss England by winning a pageant celebrating natural beauty – and will now compete for one of 15 places in the Grand Finals on 22 August.

Lydia, Parikrama, and her mother Brishana in Turkmenistan

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Lydia, Parikrama, and her mother Brishana in Turkmenistan
The turmoil with Lydia's sister Surya in, well, Russia

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The turmoil with Lydia’s sister Surya in, well, Russia





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