The campaign to stop the deportation of an Afghan teenager who fled to Britain as a 10-year-old after his father was murdered has received a significant boost.
The Home Office has agreed to consider fresh submissions on the case of Bashir Naderi and to review its decision to send him back to Afghanistan.
More than 13,000 people have now signed a petition calling for Naderi to be allowed to stay in Cardiff, where he is a student and has a long-term girlfriend and loving foster mother.
Politicians from all four parties at the Welsh assembly, including Ukip, have called for the UK government to think again, and celebrities including the Welsh singers Charlotte Church and Cerys Matthews have voiced support.
Naderi’s sole memory of Afghanistan is his father being shot by the Taliban. He has no contact with family or friends, cannot speak any of the Afghan languages and claims he will not survive if he is sent back.
The 19-year-old was detained by immigration officials in Cardiff – where he was brought up by a foster family – last month, taken to Gatwick airport and came within minutes of being forced on to a plane bound for Kabul when his long-term girlfriend and her family managed to win him a temporary reprieve.
A spokesperson for the campaign said it was great news that the decision was being reviewed and discussions were taking place between Naderi’s team and lawyers for the Home Office.
The spokesperson added: “Whilst this news represents a significant development after weeks of uncertainty and anxiety, Bash and his family are aware that this is a starting point rather than an outcome. However, it provides an opportunity to present the overwhelming evidence in support of Bash’s case.”
After his father was shot, Naderi’s mother sold the family’s land to send her son to the UK. He does not know what has happened to her. It took him a year to reach Britain, where he was placed with a foster family in the Welsh capital. He flourished, attending a Catholic high school, gaining nine GCSEs and going on to study at Cardiff and Vale College.
Naderi was detained after attending what he thought was going to be a routine immigration appointment, and spent 11 days behind bars at a police station in Wales and a detention centre.
When it became clear that he was going to be taken to Gatwick to be put on a plane, he resisted, was restrained with some sort of belt and suffered a wrist injury, meaning his lower arm needed to be put in a cast.
Naderi’s girlfriend, Nicole Cooper, said: “We have been so amazed at how Bash’s petition has raised 13,000 supporters. We had no idea this could be done and are so grateful for the words of support on Facebook and Twitter and for the public support from assembly members, from MPs, from celebrities and from so many members of the public across Cardiff, Wales, the UK and even further afield.”
Cooper, 24, added: “It has been very comforting and helps us stay strong, so we really would like to thank all of them for what they are doing to support Bash.”
Immigration is not a devolved issue but responding to an urgent question on Naderi’s case, the Welsh government’s cabinet secretary for children and communities, Carl Sargeant, said: “I hope the home secretary will take note of the views expressed here and among the wider Welsh public.”
If an unaccompanied child qualifies for asylum, they are granted limited leave to remain, normally for a period of five years. Once the child turns 17½, the Home Office expects them either to start making preparations to return to their country of origin when they turn 18 or to make a further application for leave to remain. These applications are considered on a case by case basis.
A Home Office spokesperson said it could not comment on individual cases.