More than 66,000 ask UK to issue visas for parents of Syrian inferno victim: Report

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Presumed death toll jumps to 58 on Saturday as embattled Prime Minister Theresa May pledges action after meeting survivors

Woman lays flowers on Saturday in tribute to victims of 14 June Grenfell Tower block fire in Kensington, west London (AFP)
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Sunday 18 June 2017 8:16 UTC
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More than 66,000 people have called on the UK to grant the parents of a Syrian victim of the Grenfell Tower fire visas so they can attend his funeral, a report said on Saturday.

Mohammed al-Haj Ali, 23, died after being separated from his brother, as they tried to escape the flames that engulfed the 24-storey tower block early on 14 June. 

Mohammed was with his brother Omar, 25, who lived on the 14th floor, as the smoke began to seep into his flat. 

They attempted to leave the building, but Mohammed was overwhelmed by smoke and forced to return to the flat. 

Omar was taken to hospital after escaping and remained in contact with Mohammed, who was still trapped inside the flat. 

His last words to his brother were: "The smoke is getting in, the smoke is getting in, we are going to die, we are going to die."



Mohammed al-Haj Ali fled Syria and settled in the UK in 2014. He remained in contact with his brother while trapped in Grenfell Tower by fire (MEE/Abdullah Hourani)

In a statement, his family said he was a "very amazing and kind person. He gave love to everyone. He came to the UK because he had ambitions and aims for his life and for his family," the Daily Mail reported.

According to the Times, Ali, Omar and their brother Hashem, 20, were granted asylum after fleeing the Assad regime, but their parents may have visa difficulties as they attempt to attend the funeral.

A petition set up by a friend of the brothers to persuade the Home Office to grant visas to their parents has been signed by 66,634 people, the Daily Mail said.

A Home Office spokesperson told the Daily Mail: "We made contact with Mr al-Haj Ali's family yesterday and assisted them in making arrangements for their travel to the UK in these terribly sad circumstances."

Presumed death toll rises to 58

The presumed death toll from the fire jumped to 58 on Saturday as embattled Prime Minister Theresa May, accused of misreading the growing anger over the tragedy, pledged action after meeting survivors desperately seeking answers.

Dozens of people were still missing three days after the tower was engulfed in flames, and worries over the safety of the apartment block's charred wreck has slowed the search for human remains.

Sixteen bodies have been taken to a mortuary, and the first victim formally identified was named as Mohammad al-Haj Ali.

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Grenfell fire: Call to let Syrian victim's prents come to UK for funeral

Queen Elizabeth II said the disaster had cast a sombre pall over Britain, but insisted the country was showing resolve in the face of adversity.

But public anger has been swelling, with furious residents heckling May and storming the local authority headquarters on Friday.

They demanded justice for the victims and claimed the fatal blaze was due to negligence, with many citing the new cladding put on the 1974 concrete tower.

"It was a death trap, and they knew it," one person shouted as demonstrators surged inside the offices of the Kensington and Chelsea council, responsible for managing the social housing block in a working-class enclave of one of Britain's richest districts.

Police said on Saturday that their investigation would look at the building and its 2016 refurbishment, and vowed to bring prosecutions "if there is evidence".

"There are 58 people who we have been told were in Grenfell Tower on the night that are missing and therefore, sadly, I have to assume that they are dead," police commander Stuart Cundy told reporters at the scene.

He said that number could change should further information come to light.

The area surrounding the tower has been plastered by distraught relatives with pictures of the missing, from grandparents to young children.

Morocco said seven of its nationals were among the dead.

May was criticised for avoiding locals when she visited the disaster site on Thursday and faced cries of "Shame on you" and "Coward" when she returned the following day, with police breaking up scuffles.

On Saturday, May met a group of 15 victims, residents, volunteers and community leaders at her Downing Street office.

Demonstrators gathered outside, protesting about several issues including the fire.

"Everything possible will be done to help them," the prime minister said of the victims in a statement.

Reporting by Areeb Ullah included in this story.