Asylum seeker's friends hoping for late reprieve
by Tom Mack
Supporters of a failed asylum seeker from Afghanistan are hoping for a last minute victory as he prepares to be deported.
Yesterday, Abdul Ghafar Rajabali, 23, was moved to a detention centre near Gatwick Airport ready to be flown out of the UK.
The news came as a shock to his friends in Leicester.
At the same time on Sunday afternoon, about 60 of his supporters gathered in Victoria Park, Leicester, where they had planned to sing to Abdul down the telephone to show their support.
Colleen Molloy, who helped organised Sunday’s event, said: “It was quite traumatic.
“We had all come together to make one final plea for him and we rang him up hoping to sing to him.
“We thought he was still at the detention centre in Lincolnshire.
“We couldn’t get through when we tried his phone and a while later we got a call to say he was being transported to a detention centre at Gatwick Airport, which was why his phone was off.
“He never got to hear the crowds singing for him.”
Orphan Abdul fled to Leicester when he was 16, in August 2006, to escape being forced to fight for the Taliban rebels in his home country.
He fears that he will be killed if he is sent back because he has converted to Christianity.
He went through the usual channels to apply for asylum but after missing an important appointment he went on the run from the authorities and lived rough, eventually ending up in Leicester.
He was detained on May 10 by the Borders Agency.
Speaking to the Leicester Mercury from the Lincolnshire detention centre last week, Abdul said: “I am scared. I cannot go back to Afghanistan, I will be killed because I am now a Christian.
“I love England and I love Leicester.”
Colleen said lawyers were still hoping to stop Abdul being put on a plane home.
She said: “He has a legal team and they’re still working on his case and they’re hoping to get a reprieve at the last minute.
“Abdul’s only ambition is to be at peace.
“He arrived here alone and terrified and he is the sweetest, kindest, gentlest person you could know and he is feeling not just stressed about what he expects to be his impending death if he’s returned to Afghanistan, but all about all the people he misses so much in Leicester.”
Supporter Dave Jones, 23, of Leicester city centre, who used to play football with Abdul in Victoria Park every weekend, said: “Abdul is really integrated here and he’s one of us.
“He’s been let down by the authorities time and time again and now they want to send him to Afghanistan - it just makes no sense.”
A Home Office spokesperson said the Government and the courts were satisfied there was no reason to allow Abdul to stay in the UK.