February 25, 2011
The Ethiopian Government’s clampdown on opposition such as the OLF could spell detention and torture for a young man if British immigration officials return him to the country
A City and Islington College student who works for the Town Hall’s children’s department and dreams of becoming a police officer says he could be tortured and killed if he is deported back to Ethiopia.
Ahmed Abdul-aziz, deputy chairman of Islington In Care Council, is being championed as a “shining example” of British citizenship by leading Islington councillors and officials.
The 18-year-old is desperate to stay with his foster parents in Copenhagen Street, Angel.
But officials at the Border Agency told the Tribune yesterday (Thursday) that Ahmed’s story was “implausible” and that they would “seek to remove him”.
Mr Abdul-aziz said: “When it’s a matter of life or death you don’t want to go back.”
He has asked Islington South Labour MP Emily Thornberry to intervene. She has said she is looking into the case.
In his In Care Council role, Mr Abdul-aziz has liaised with council bosses about children’s rights and recently spoke up for “looked-after children” at a meeting of Islington Fairness Commission.
He has lobbied high-ranking politicians such as London Mayor Boris Johnson and government ministers since arriving at Heathrow aged 15, alone and afraid, in August 2007.
His boss at Islington Council’s Children’s Active Involvement Service (CAIS), Chris Stewart, said: “Next year this guy could be a politician or a lawyer. It’s ridiculous that anyone’s asking him to leave. He’s applying himself to education and applying himself with two hands, in a society where citizens are encouraged to do so.”
Labour education chief Councillor Richard Watts added: “Quite frankly, he is exactly the kind of person we should all be looking to aspire to and be very proud of. We’re writing a letter on his behalf to the Home Office.”
Mr Abdul-aziz said he had to leave his home town of Jimma after his businessman father was forced out of his homeland when it was revealed he was a major donor to Ethiopia’s opposition party, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF).
The teenager travelled posing as a member of an international scout group and was later taken into care by the council.
His mother, sister and brother have also left home and are believed to be living in a shanty town on the border of Sudan and Ethiopia.
Without English, he began playing football in Newington Park for a team called Young Vibes, run by Mr Stewart. He went on to take up his In Care Council role, representing about 360 looked-after children in Islington.
Mr Abdul-aziz has not seen his family for three years but has now to obtain official documents proving they were members of the outlawed group.
He believes that if he returns he could be killed or tortured to reveal information about the OLF. “Once they catch you they are really interested in finding out information,” he said. “They use electrocution. Just because you are Oromo you have no rights. I will not be respected for who I am.
“My father has been forced to leave and my grandfather was killed because of involvement with OLF. You think I would want to come to a country I have never been to without knowing anyone and just 15 years old?”
He added: “We all have a right to a safe place to live. That is why I want to stay.”
Matthew Smith, head of the UK Border Agency’s Haringey and Islington Local Immigration Team, said: “Mr Aziz’s claim has been carefully considered by the UK Border Agency and separately by an independent immigration tribunal but he has been found not to have a right to remain here.
“At the tribunal the immigration judge described his claims as ‘implausible’ and ‘not credible’. The UK has a proud tradition of providing a place of safety for genuine refugees. However, we will seek to remove people who are found to have made false claims.”