Zimbabweans with football dreams are kicked out of England

Christopher Arundel wanted to play professional football-and was a member of Stainestown Academy

Christopher Arundell grew up in the UK and once dreamed of playing professional football. He will still be deported to Zimbabwe despite a cross-party call for the Secretary of the Interior to stop expelling him-and others in his position.

“This is the only place where I have lived. What do you remember when you were five?” The 26-year-old said he was born in Zimbabwe and lived there until he was five.

“I don’t know anything except the UK. I go to school here, all my friends are here, all my family is here,” he explained to the BBC over the phone at the Brookhouse Detention Center near Gatwick Airport Said that he has been there since the end of last month.

“If I have to go back-I’m basically dead.”

Chris’ family has become British citizens, including his two younger siblings.

But his father has been delaying the payment of his citizenship, so he dropped out of the football academy where he was accepted after leaving school, and ended up in trouble and jailed for drug abuse.

After experiencing three terrible burglaries, the Arundel family left Zimbabwe-moving after each incident. Especially the last one, too cruel.

“I was taken to the shop by a maid, and the thief came to the house, tied up my mother, held her hostage, sprayed her and my six-month-old sister with pepper, and they took the goods from our house. The house, took our car.”

Chris didn’t know if the family was specifically targeted-but for his mother, he said it proved too much. She took two young children to Botswana first, and then to the United Kingdom-her The architect husband later joined her in 2001.

He has mixed ancestry: his mother is half-Indian, and his father grew up as an orphan in Zimbabwe.

Chris speaks English but does not speak the two main local languages ​​of Zimbabwe, Shona or Ndebele.

In Zimbabwe’s turbulent 20 years, the relatives left by this family have long since left.

People in Harare Mbarre, a mural of the late President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe-2019

Robert Mugabe died in 2019 nearly two years after being deposed as president

Under the economic collapse and political repression under the late President Robert Mugabe, it is estimated that more than 3 million people have fled.

Times are still difficult. Last week, a cross-party group of 75 British parliamentarians wrote to Home Secretary Pritty Patel, urging her to stop deporting 50 Zimbabweans because the country’s political and human rights situation is “deteriorating”.

Ms. Patel replied that the law requires her to repatriate foreign criminals in safety: “My main goal is to protect the public.”

In a statement to the BBC, the Home Office said of Chris’ case: “We will only repatriate those of us, and where applicable, the court believes that our protection is not needed and there is no legal basis to stay in the UK. People. .”

Since January 2019, the Ministry of the Interior has stated that it has deported more than 7,900 foreign criminals.

The online petition supporting Zimbabweans has more than 21,000 signatures.

“many people [facing deportation] Fleeing persecution, or they came [to the UK] Like young children, but the family cannot afford to normalize their stay,” Zita Holbourne from the human rights organization BARAC UK told the BBC.

Zimbabwean government spokesman Nick Manwana said that those who have returned have nothing to fear.

“As long as you are a Zimbabwean, you are welcome home,” he told the BBC.

However, many legal appeals have been filed-there were only 14 people on the chartered flight to Zimbabwe last Wednesday.

Chris is not on the ship because of the coronavirus outbreak in his part of Brookhouse-he is still desperately trying to fight his case, which is complicated.

‘Chance of a lifetime’

The unpleasant family dynamics seem to come into play.

Arundells received a 10-year limited vacation, and Chris said he expired when he was 17.

“My father is very controlling-he controls finances. In order for him to continue working, he must adjust his position,” he said.

“After he and my mother were granted indefinite residence, he kept promising,’Next I will sort out the children’, but he never did that. He said it was for money.”

Christopher Arundel

Chris has been in trouble since he was released from prison-committed to community projects

Unlike all his school friends, they all received a National Insurance (NI) number before their 16th birthday—Chris’s number did not arrive—and in 2011, when his legal identity needed to be sorted out, settle this The problematic effort becomes impossible.

This had a devastating effect on him: after completing the GCSE (UK graduation qualification), he had just been admitted to the academy of Staines Town Football Club and started to study sports science at Kingston College.

“Football is my dream,” said left-wing player Chris, who has always been an Arsenal fan.

But he fell into depression, because without his NI number, he couldn’t find any part-time job like his friends.

The tipping point is when he cannot go to Spain for a university trip because he does not have the correct thesis.

“I got the rare opportunity of my life-I went and told my dad that he didn’t do anything, so I left.”

“My mother was traumatized”

The situation got worse when he was sentenced for drug trafficking and assault in 2015, for which he was sentenced to six years in prison.

“I pleaded guilty to drug charges, but the allegations of assault are not true,” he said.

During his four years of service, he has obtained various qualifications, including various other qualifications in the construction industry as a fitness trainer.

After being released from prison, he began a serious relationship, joined a football club-the Slieford Rangers-and participated in Lincoln’s community work.

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As part of the bail conditions, he has been living with his mother, who left his father in 2016 with the help of the women’s shelter.

Then, she was able to organize the paperwork for the other children herself-they are now British citizens.

“My mother was also traumatized because of her self-blame,” Chris said.

He said that the conditions in immigration detention centers are “like prisons”-which is what your worst enemy doesn’t want to see.

“I have better facilities in the prison. Our room has no windows. Because of the new coronavirus, the air conditioner is not turned on. It is just hot and stuffy. The only difference is that they allow us to use mobile phones.”

Since the coronavirus case was reported, the detainees have been kept on their wings and restricted their use of computers, gyms and libraries.

However, he may be transferred to Zimbabwe, which makes him very distressed.

He only knows what will happen when he arrives, which is to perform a PCR test, isolate for 10 days, and then drive to a place of his choice.

But he didn’t know where to go.

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