Boxer trafficked as a child wins 16-year battle to stay in UK

Former England boxer who was trafficked from Nigeria as a child and forced into domestic servitude has won the right to remain in Britain after a 16-year legal battle.

Kelvin Bilal Fawaz, 32, was granted the right to live and work in Britain for 30 months, after being held in detention centres for months when the government attempted to deport him to Nigeria, which did not recognize him as a citizen.

“The decision means that I am free, that I can have a family, I can start a life,” Fawaz, a light-middleweight champion who has fought for England half a dozen times, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“I don’t have to worry about unwarranted arrest and being taken to a detention centre,” said Fawaz, whose parents were from Lebanon and Benin.

The boxer is among thousands of people trafficked into modern slavery in Britain, many of whom are are fighting to remain in the country after being duped into leaving places such as Albania, Vietnam, China, Romania and Nigeria.

Brought to Britain aged 14 under the pretense of meeting his father, Fawaz was forced to become a domestic worker, beaten and prevented from leaving the house, his lawyers said.

After escaping, Fawaz was taken into local authority care, and was granted the right to remain in the country until the age of 18. Multiple applications to stay on as an adult were denied by the Home Office (interior ministry).

He was twice chosen to represent Britain in the Olympics but could not attend because of his immigration status.

Fawaz demonstrated his joy after he received the good news “ he said he was on a bus when he heard the news that the Home Office had finally granted him leave to remain. He was so overwhelmed; he got off to kiss the ground.

“I was in shock. I couldn’t breathe, I was gasping for breath … I started screaming out of joy,” he said.

“I knelt down and kissed the floor, I didn’t care if anyone had spat on it or about coronavirus. I knelt down and kissed the floor and said ‘I am British’.”

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