‘Bogus boy’ asylum seeker who claimed he was a child despite being 20 makes Facebook getaway
By Andrew Chapman
Last updated at 1:30 AM on 15th August 2010
An asylum seeker who claimed he was a child but was actually 20 has tried to avoid deportation by going on the run with the help of friends from a 2,500-strong Facebook group.
Rabar Hamad disappeared days before officials were to set a date to remove him from the UK.
Members of the Facebook page ‘Don’t Deport 16 Year Old Rabar Hamad to Iraq’ say he is being looked after by people linked to the site and the page has been used to raise money for him.
Hamad arrived in Britain in 2008 hidden in the wheel arch of a lorry and tried to evade deportation by claiming he was a 14-year-old orphan whose parents had been killed in Iraq.
But earlier this year, while he was studying for GCSEs at Breeze Hill School, in Oldham, Greater Manchester, the authorities discovered he was an adult and not protected by laws that forbid the deportation of minors.
He had been allowed to await deportation at a children’s home in Wigan instead of a holding camp at Manchester Airport. But he absconded after failing to turn up for a weekly reporting session at Oldham police station.
Last night, the Home Office warned that anyone helping Hamad could
be jailed for up to 14 years. UK Border Agency officials and police have launched a joint operation to find him.
Friends from the Facebook page would not say where Hamad was but confirmed he was being looked after within their network.
A source said: ‘He is with friends. No amount of pressure will force us to reveal his whereabouts and we will go to prison rather than hand him over. This is entirely unjust.’
People from all over the UK have joined the group. Di Jones, 67, a retired civil servant from Sandwich, Kent, donated £20 through Facebook, which may go towards legal advice. She said: ‘I am not worried. My conscience is clear. I read about his case on Facebook and decided to donate.’
One posting made by a member called Katie Miller says: ‘Rabar has said that he is safe, and arrangements are being made for him to see the barrister. Rabar is struggling with the situation so developments are slow and on a day-by-day basis.’
Hamad’s English teacher, Sally Hyman, who has organised the online petition for him to remain, said he now has a solicitor and barrister, but refused to reveal their identities.
She said: ‘We have been advised not to discuss the case at this stage.’
When Hamad arrived in Britain after a ten-day journey, he was merely able to show officials photocopied documents. Only originals are considered valid to prove age. Teachers say Hamad quickly established himself as a hard-working student with good exam prospects. He was a proficient footballer, and had trials with Fulham FC and the Nike soccer academy.
Before Hamad disappeared, he said: ‘I’m 16 and I should be allowed to stay. It is so good here [at school], the staff are brilliant and I’m really happy. I love it here in England. I don’t want to go to Iraq – they will kill me like they did my parents. I only had one year of school when I was six but now I am reading and writing.’
Ms Hyman, 51, said earlier: ‘I’ve met a lot of people trying to do all they can to stay, some trying to pull the wool, but Rabar isn’t.’
Hamad’s headmaster Bernard Phillips said: ‘He is a wonderful student and deserves justice.’
Greater Manchester Police said that they believed Hamad was safe but were looking for him. A spokesman added that no one who was suspected of helping him on the run had been questioned or arrested.
A Facebook spokesman said: ‘People are entitled to have their own opinions on Facebook, just like they are on the bus or in a pub.’