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'Model immigrant' to be deported

Law Editor,Robert Verkaik
Wednesday 06 February 2008 01:00 GMT

A "remarkable" immigrant, honoured this week by the Church of England for his contribution to British society, has lost his legal battle to stay in this country.

Damilola Ajagbonna, 19, whose academic record has won him places at Cambridge and Sheffield universities, said he was bitterly disappointed after the Court of Appeal yesterday turned down his final appeal for the right to live here. He is expected to be ordered to return to Nigeria in the next few weeks.

"I have always regarded Britain as a just country and believed that as long as you played by the rules you will be treated fairly," said Mr Ajagbonna. "It is now clear to me that is not the case. For two years I have hoped and I have prayed and I have begged to be treated as a human being, but this has not been enough."

Since coming to Britain from Nigeria with his mother when he was 11 years old, his achievements in education and community work have won him acclaim from teachers and immigration campaigners alike.

On Monday he attended a service at St Paul's Cathedral, where the Bishop of London awarded him the St Mellitus medal for his contribution to his school, the Greig City Academy in Hornsey, north London, where he achieved 13 GCSEs and three A levels.

His former headmaster, Paul Sutton, said Mr Ajagbonna's was one of the school's greatest achievements. "He has been our head boy for as long as I can remember, an absolute star who has given unfailing support. It seems to me he is the very kind of person we need to keep. So it is quite bizarre that we are even thinking about deporting him," Mr Sutton said.

His talents have also been recognised by the United Nations, which in 2005 appointed him an adviser on youth issues to Unicef. He was closely involved in one of the flagship community projects run by the former Department for Education and Skills and held prominent roles in the Children's Rights Alliance for England.

One of the judges who heard Mr Ajagbonna's case described these achievements as "spectacular". He said in his judgment: "I find the appellant's contribution to youth culture in our society as a whole, and to his school society in particular, has been remarkable ... He is clearly an outstanding young man. He would appear both keen to learn and keen to give."

But yesterday Mr Ajagbonna learned that this impressive track record had not earned him the right to stay in the United Kingdom.

Mrs Justice Dobbs ruled that she could find no error in law in the decision to refuse him further leave to remain, adding that her decision was "final and there was no appeal against it".

Mr Ajagbonna said that he was tired of fighting. "I do not want to be patronised any more. The immigration rules are not governed by justice any longer but by the xenophobia of the tabloid press," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said: "Where a person has been refused further leave to remain, there is a full right of appeal against the decision to the independent asylum and immigration tribunal. An immigration judge will fully consider all aspects of the case, including any further information not provided on the original application."

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