Following a campaign backed by his club, local MP, football fans and Sir Elton John, 19-year-old footballer Al Bangura was granted a work permit this week despite having had a previous appeal to stay rejected by an Asylum and Immigration tribunal.
Bangura, who plays for Watford, had told the tribunal in December that he’d sought refuge as an unaccompanied minor at the age of 15 having been trafficked to the UK from Sierra Leone. However, though he had been granted permission to stay in 2004, the Home Office appealed and, despite Bangura’s claims that he would not be safe, the 2007 tribunal ruled that he must return.
As well as receiving considerable public backing, Bangura’s case also received a sympathetic hearing in the media, including in newspapers not normally considered friendly to the concerns of refugees and asylum seekers.
Now, as The Times reports, the granting of a work permit means that Bangura will be able to stay, at least for the next few years.
A Home Office spokesman confirmed the approval of Mr Bangura’s work permit. It was granted for the length of his Watford contract, which runs until 2010. The Home Office spokesman added: “The next stage is to apply for leave to remain in the UK.”
The announcement that Mr Bangura would be allowed a work permit came hours after Liam Byrne, the Immigration Minister, said that the public wanted strong borders and a compassionate immigration system.
He said that while Britain was not antiforeigner, the public wanted stronger borders. “The public want us to prevent illegal immigration by attacking its causes.
“The public wants us to hold newcomers to account when they break the rules, deporting rule breakers where necessary.
“But they also want a compassionate system, which makes and enforces decisions fast and lets those we need make the contribution they can as long as they speak English, pay tax and obey the law.”