Iraqi in immigration dispute disappears

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The Independent Online

An Iraqi student embroiled in a long row with authorities after misinforming them of his age has gone missing, the Home Office confirmed yesterday.

Arriving in Britain hidden in the wheel arch of a lorry in 2008, Rabar Hamad, an orphaned Iraqi Kurd, first told officials he was 14. He was placed in a children's home, which gave him a place at a secondary school and encouraged him to sit exams.

He later started studying at Breeze Hill School in Oldham. He was due to start his GCSEs next year. If he is found he could be arrested immediately, according to the Home Office.

Wigan Council undertook two age assessments with Hamad, both of which said he was over 18, but an independent tribunal doctor found he was aged between 13 and 16.

Hamed says his original documents have been lost and the Home Office will not accept photocopies.

Teachers said he fitted in quickly and is a talented footballer who has had trials with Fulham, Bury and the Nike Football Academy.

As fears grew that he would be deported, supporters started the Rabar Hamad Must Stay Campaign on Facebook to try to stop him being sent back to Iraq.

He was given Iraqi interpreters who were not familiar with the Kurdish language and the language differences made it seem there were inconsistencies in his story.

His friends and teachers have started a campaign to prevent the deportation and take his case to judicial review. Social services officials have withdrawn funding for his accommodation and education and have warned him he will face deportation to Iraq on 5 August.

In a statement, a spokesman for the campaign said: "Rabar is staying in a place where he feels safe with people who are ensuring his basic day-to-day needs are being met. "We continue to work towards maintaining the legal requirements set by the UK Border Agency."

A spokesman for the Home Office said: "We can confirm Rabar Hamad has absconded. Immigration absconders are liable to be arrested on sight and anyone facilitating their continued presence risks up to 14 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine."

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