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Man who fled Syria for new life in Northern Ireland killed in lorry crash

Mahfouz Balid was cycling to factory where he worked while saving money for dentistry exams

A man who fled the civil war in Syria last year to join his family in Northern Ireland has died following a collision involving a lorry as he cycled to work yesterday. A local politician says he has repeatedly called for safety improvements at the junction where the fatal crash happened.

Mahfouz Balid was cycling to the window blinds factory in Lisburn where he worked when the collision happened at 2.25pm yesterday afternoon on Knockmore Road close to the junction with Ballinderry Road, reports the Belfast Telegraph.

Paul Lagan, Member of the Legislative Assembly for Lagan Valley, said he had long been urging ministers at Stormont to make the junction safer.

 He said: "I have had three ministerial meetings about this junction in the past few years about this very dangerous junction.

"That junction is one that should have been upgraded years ago, but because of a dispute between Roads Service and the planning service, it hasn't been, it's a hugely dangerous road.

"I find it outrageous and deeply upsetting."

He added that a “lengthy, bureaucratic” dispute had led no action being taken to improve safety, saying: “There is a dispute over the standard of the improvements to the junction.”

Mr Balid arrived in Northern Ireland from Syria last year on a visa to join his wife, who holds an Irish passport since her mother was born in Belfast, and their four children who have lived there since 2013.

A dentist by profession, he was saving money to pay the £6,000 he needed to sit a dentistry exam to secure a qualification that would allow him to practise in the UK.

Nearly £1,500 had already been raised through a Just Giving appeal by the Tech Skills Partnership in NI after Mr Balid and his family were featured in a BBC report in which he described his new life.

"I found a job here in a factory close to my house for eight hours a day for five days a week," he said.

"I find it good for me to busy myself - not stay at home, and to save some money for that exam.

"It's manual work for blinds. It's hard work - it's not easy, eight hours standing on your feet. I have been working for 22 years as a dentist and I don't want to lose my skills."

Tech Skills Partnership director Mark Feeney told the Belfast Telegraph at the time: "Here's a guy with 23 years' experience and he needs two pieces of silly paper to say he can do it.

"He just needs a bit of money to get that done and then he can contribute back to society.

"I just think we have to help people like this - it's crazy.

"He's got one son who has been here for two and a half years and has learned English in that period of time, came out with three As in his A-Levels and is now studying computer science at Queen's [University Belfast].

He added: "It's a remarkable family who have found themselves in a really unfortunate situation and I just think they should be helped."

Speaking on behalf of Mr Balid’s wife and children a friend of the family, Raied Al-Wazzan, said: "He was one of the most generous people I've met.

“He was a family man and was very hard-working. There aren't really words to describe him.

"To lose a friend like that is very difficult. His children are very distressed and it's very hard for them.

"The family have been receiving lots of support from the Muslim community, the Arab community and the local people of Lisburn," he added.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland have appealed for witnesses to contact them on 101.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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