Bilal Fawaz: I Boxed For England Against Nigeria, And Now They Want To Deport Me There

Kelvin Bilal Fawaz
Kelvin Bilal Fawaz, 29, has been at the Tinsley House immigration center since November 29. He is awaiting deportation as his leave to remain has expired. Kelvin Bilal Fawaz / Facebook

A boxing champion who represented England several times feels hopeless and alone as he awaits deportation to Nigeria at an immigration center near Gatwick Airport, south-east England.

Bilal Fawaz, also known as "Kelvin", has been at the Tinsley House immigration center since November 29. He is awaiting deportation as his leave to remain has expired.

"I feel I have been locked up in a cage, I feel like I cannot move, I feel like a prisoner," Fawaz told Newsweek during a phone interview from the detention center.
"I am not able to leave the center, they have taken away my freedom, I feel helpless, I feel alone".

The 29-year-old athlete claimed he cannot be deported as he is stateless. He said his parents, originally from Lebanon, migrated to the city of Chamo in central Nigeria, but they were never granted citizenship.

Fawaz also claimed he was illegally smuggled into the U.K. when he was 14 and was forced to become a domestic slave by a man he thought was an uncle he was supposed to live with upon his arrival.

He eventually manged to escape and lived with foster families until he was 18. He then tried to apply for asylum, but said his applications were rejected due to what he said were minor crimes he committed during his stay in the U.K.

"I am being punished because of the ramifications of my past sins. Everyone has a past, I never robbed a bank, or beaten anyone up, I never killed or raped anyone. All I did was just minor petty crimes like graffiti or driving without a licence," he said.

Fawaz claimed that, due to his unsettled status, he never got a passport and he was never able to work or claim benefits and his marriage to a British woman, which the Home Office declared void, collapsed.

"My whole life was ruined. My marriage was ruined because I could not provide for my wife, who has always been the one for me," he said.

Fawaz joined the Stonebridge Boxing Club in Brent and took up boxing in 2011, discovering a passion for the sport. He has since boxed for England six times and he currently holds the London middleweight boxing title.

"I even boxed for England against Nigeria, the country they want to deport me to," he explained.

"I represented this country so many times and they did this to me, they put me up in a detention center, it does not make sense."

Fawaz's manager Aamir Ali, who is also the director of the Stonebridge Boxing Club, told Newsweek the two men have become friends since Fawaz joined the gym. They have been speaking every day since Fawaz was taken to the center.

"We became very good friends. He was suffering from depression and all he was doing was going to the gym, as he was not able to earn a living. He has been living at the gym," he said.

"Even if he was Nigerian, this is inhumane. He wants a work permit so he can stay here. What are they sending him back to?"

The U.K. is my only home

Kelvin Bilal Fawaz
Kelvin Bilal Fawaz Kelvin Bilal Fawaz / Facebook

Fawaz said he does not know anyone in Nigeria and the U.K. is his only home.

"I would like to be out for Christmas and eat turkey, sing Christmas songs and dance. Just do what a normal person would do on Christmas. I want to be normal," he said.

"To the Home Office I want to say I am sincerely sorry from the bottom of my heart for what I did in the past. A man should not be judged by his past actions, but by what he is trying to do to rectify them. I just want one more chance to prove myself."

A spokesperson for the Home Office told Newsweek that an application Fawaz submitted to be recognized as a stateless person was rejected in August 2017. The spokesperson did not elaborate further on the application, but added: "When someone has no leave to remain in the U.K., we expect them to leave the country voluntarily. Where they do not, we will seek to enforce their departure."

Fawaz also claimed he sought the help of the Nigerian embassy in London. However, his attempts proved in vain as the embassy does not have any record of him being born in Nigeria.

Both the Nigerian ministry of foreign affairs and the Nigerian embassy in London have not replied to a request for a comment.

More than 4,600 people have already signed a petition on Change.org to help the boxer remain in the U.K.