A refugee who stayed with football host Gary Lineker has praised his experience and explained that his host is a “caring and loving defender of humanity”.

Following his reinstatement as a Match of the Day host after he aired his opinion on the Home Secretary's Rwandan deportation plans, Lineker put the migrants row behind him on Saturday (March 18) and returned to TV.

And it is clear that the refuge, Rasheed Baluch, 35, who was welcomed into Lineker’s £4 million Surrey home in 2020, has nothing but good memories of his time with the star as he applauded his hospitality.

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Sharing his story for the first time, Rasheed - who left the Pakistan province of Balochistan - said of Lineker: “He has been given the right of freedom, right of thought and expression. So if the institutions react so negatively against the statement of Gary, it is undemocratic and unfair.

“Gary has come forward to defend humanity. It should be a point of pride for the British public.”

He went on to explain how the TV host helped him with his travel costs, was keen to hear his story – and was a “fantastic cook who served mind-blowing meals”.

Rasheed went on to The Mirror: “He is friendly and open-minded. He loved to listen to me when I shared my story about the situation in my country and the plight of my people. Gary was comfortable with my company and conversation. That’s why he listened to me attentively."

He continued: “Although Gary is a star, he leads a simple life. He is never proud of his status. He is a very sympathetic, caring and human loving man. He gave me an Oyster card which contained £100 top-up for my transport to university. I can never forget your hospitality, love and company that you and your lovely respectful children gave to me.”

The star described Rasheed’s stay – arranged by Refugees at Home (RaH) – as a “hugely positive experience”, thanking him “for giving such a different perspective on life” to him and his four sons, George, Harry, Angus and Tobias.

After living with Gary for 20 days, Rasheed stayed with RaH co-founder Sara Nathan for a month before finding his own digs. The organisation has helped 4,357 people with a total of 326,498 placement nights.

Sara said: “We take great joy in matching refugees and asylum seekers with hosts, especially when it works as well as sending Rasheed to Gary did. Hosting demonstrates the welcome and warmth people in the UK can offer those fleeing war and persecution. It enables people to demonstrate their shared humanity.”

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2023-03-19T13:14:00Z dg43tfdfdgfd