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Family of Syrian victim of London tower block fire allowed to come to UK

The UK Home Office says the family of Mohammed Alhajali are being granted visas for the UK on 'compassionate grounds'
Mohammed Alhajali fled Syria with his brothers and settled in the United Kingdom in 2014. (MEE/Abdullah Hourani)

The family of a Syrian victim of the London Grenfell Tower disaster is to be brought to the UK following a petition which has so far gained more than 80,000 signatures.

Mohammed Alhajali, a 23-year-old Syrian refugee engineering student, was the first victim to be named after a devastating fire in a tower block in West London that left at least 58 people dead or missing, presumed dead.

His older brother, Omar, who was with him on the 14th floor when the fire broke out, survived after they were separated when trying to escape.

The number of visas granted to Syrians since 2011 has fallen considerably, but the UK Home Office announced at the weekend that the Alhajali family would be able to come to the UK on compassionate grounds.

"We have established processes in place which allow us to consider visa applications outside the immigration rules on compassionate grounds," a Home Office statement said.

"We are in contact with Mr Alhajali's family and will offer any assistance we can to help them obtain the necessary travel documents they will require in these terribly sad circumstances."

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, Mohammed, Omar and their brother Hashem, 20, were granted asylum after fleeing the Assad government.

A friend of Alhajali, Randa El-Daouk, told the BBC's Andrew Marr programme that her friend was "loved by all of us".

Growing anger at prime minister

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.

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Queen Elizabeth 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.