A petition signed by more than 14,000 people to try to save a young man who fled to Britain from as a 10-year-old from being sent back has been handed to the Home Office.
Bashir Naderi, who has grown up in Cardiff, though he has no known relatives or connections there and does not speak any of the country’s languages.
Politicians from all four parties in the Welsh assembly, including Ukip, have called for the UK government not to remove Naderi and celebrities including the Welsh singers Charlotte Church and Cerys Matthews have voiced support.
On Friday, Naderi, who has just turned 20, his Welsh girlfriend, Nicole Cooper, and other friends and supporters were in London to present to the Home Office.
It reads: “He is fully integrated, westernised, has a loving long-term relationship with the lovely Nicole and speaks with a Cardiff accent! His Catholic school, Mary Immaculate Cardiff, fully support Bashir. He has no contact with his Afghan family and doesn’t even know if they have survived.
“Bashir is a humble, gentle, kind young man who now attends college and is working hard to contribute fully to our British society. His life is here, his ‘family’ is here, his safety is here. All those who make contact with him are struck by his gentle spirit and generosity to others.
“To send Bashir back to Afghanistan would be dangerous, callous and irresponsible – we simply fear for his life … This child took refuge in our country nine years ago – please don’t refuse him refuge now. He has no one to go to back in Afghanistan. Bashir is a Welsh boy – he is one of our own!”
Jo Stevens, the Cardiff Central MP and shadow secretary of state for , accompanied Nadir and his supporters to the Home Office.
She said: “Bashir has been in Cardiff for nine years, he’s attended school and college here and I am at a loss as to why the Home Office system means that he is now being targeted for removal just at the point where he can begin to use his education and skills to start work, and contribute to society.”
Stevens said the case exposed a wider problem. “The Home Office has admitted that they do not keep records of the number of young people who find themselves in this situation – having arrived as an unaccompanied minor – but it is of great concern to me that a young person whose home is in the UK should be removed to a dangerous country when they turn 18, despite having been educated here and wanting to contribute,” she said.
She asked the government how many young people were in Nadir’s position in a written question. Immigration minister Robert Goodwill said it was too expensive to find out. He said: “I am sorry but the Home Office does not hold the specific information in the format requested. To obtain it would involve interrogating individual case records, at disproportionate cost.”
Naderi’s sole memory of Afghanistan is of the Taliban shooting and killing his father, a police officer.
His mother sold the family’s land to send her son to the UK. He does not know what has happened to her. It took him a year to reach Britain, where he was placed with a foster family in the Welsh capital. He flourished, gaining nine GCSEs and going on to study at Cardiff and Vale College.
Naderi was detained after attending what he thought was going to be a routine immigration appointment, and spent 11 days behind bars at a police station in Wales and a detention centre.
When it became clear that he was going to be taken to Gatwick to be put on a plane, he resisted, was restrained with some sort of belt and suffered a wrist injury, meaning his lower arm needed to be put in a cast.
He came within minutes of being forced on to a plane bound for Kabul when his girlfriend and her family managed to win him a temporary reprieve.
On Friday Naderi’s legal team was sending further evidence to the Home Office setting out why it believed he ought to be able to stay in the UK. It is believed the government has until March to decide whether it believes he ought to be removed.
The Home Office said it could not comment on individual cases.