Kelvin Bilal Fawaz, who came to the UK 15 years ago from Nigeria as a parentless teenager was just granted bail after threats of being deported back to his native country. He was held in the immigration detention center for 34 days.
29-year-old Fawaz who has been a professional boxer for 12 years and has lived in the UK for 15 years was freed from the Tinsely House detention centre near Gatwick Airport on Tuesday night after a generous judge came to know about his painful torment and ongoing 11-year case.
Fawaz has won England amateur light-middleweight title and has jumped into the ring various times even against Nigeria. His arrest came when eight undercover officers nabbed him at a boxing gym in Stonebridge on November 29 on charges of failing to produce before an immigration centre. It must be noted that the Home Office had refused his repeated pleas for citizenship and rights.
Fawaz was granted bail on Tuesday and is now staying with a coach Aamir Ali. The coach of the gym Aamir Ali is very vocal and has been campaigning for his friend for quite a long time now.
Aamir Ali said, “Part of the Home Office justification of keeping him locked up was because of petty crimes he committed four years ago – but the judge saw that he hasn’t committed anything recently and he’s turned his life around for boxing and helping train kids at the club,”.
Ali has stated that Fawaz’s past venial crimes must not be taken into account when deciding his fate as it has been over four years since his last offence.
On the other side, Nigerian High Commission is not complying with Home Office’s application to take back Fawaz as it refuses to recognize him as its citizen. It claims that Fawaz was only born there, his father was from Lebanon and mother from Benin, so Fawaz cannot be their citizen.
Home Office clearly says that despite reviewing his applications several times, they couldn’t find a reason for keeping him in the UK as the subject has a series of criminal offences. It even refuses to regard him as ‘stateless’. Home Office spokesperson added, “When someone has no leave to remain in the UK, we expect them to leave the country voluntarily. Where they do not, we will seek to enforce their departure.”
Fawaz lamented, “They sabotaged my marriage and my Olympic dream. They haven’t allowed me to work since I was 18. I’m suffering from depression right now. They’ve ruined my life. I have nowhere to turn to. I was fighting for England I was proud and represented the team, felt like I belonged to something. For them (the Home Office) to turn their back on me after literally bleeding for them in the ring, I feel abandoned all over again.”
Coach Ali who works at the gym and is a close friend of Fawaz articulated, “We now want to speak to the Nigerian High Commission to get confirmation from them and maybe take this to a judicial review. The judge was happy that the people who were put on his bail application and that he has applied for a new case to be taken on by the Home Office.”
A petition has surfaced with more than 12000 signatures supporting Fawaz’s stay in the UK. Supporters and people from human rights agencies are now impelled to take help from citizens of the UK in favor of Fawaz.