'Stateless' British Boxing Champ Facing Deportation to Nigeria Asks Home Office for Compassion

London-based champion of British boxing Kelvin Bilal Fawaz, who is facing deportation to Nigeria, is begging the Home Office to give him a chance to continue his life in Britain.

The 29-year-old athlete spent half of his life in the U.K., where he said he was illegally smuggled into at the age 14 and was forced to become a domestic slave by a man he thought was an uncle. At the age of 18, Fawaz tried to apply for asylum, but said his applications were rejected due to what he said were minor crimes committed during his stay in the U.K.

Fawaz spent 34 days at the Tinsley House immigration center and was released on bail earlier in January. But his future in the country remains uncertain as his leave to remain has expired and the Home Office has rejected his applications to remain in the country.

Fawaz's case is complicated. He claims his parents, originally from Lebanon and Benin, migrated to the city of Chamo in central Nigeria, but they were never granted citizenship.

Fawaz also claims that the Nigerian government does not recognize him as a citizen and thus he cannot be deported as he is a "stateless person".

"I want the Home Office to show a bit of leniency towards me. They are not treating me as a human being, they are treating me as a number," Fawaz told Newsweek during an interview at the Stonebridge Boxing Club, north London, where he trains.

"I am sorry for my past actions, I was only a human being. I was just a naughty kid, I never had a parental guidance. I did not know the way, or how to go about life," he continued.

"If they look at me now and see what I am capable of doing, what I am willing to sacrifice and what I have sacrificed... it hurts, it just hurts".

Fawaz has lived in Britain for half of his life and since taking up boxing in 2011 has boxed for England six times. He currently holds the London middleweight boxing title. He even represented England against Nigeria.

Over his 11-year fight to remain in the U.K., Fawaz has been suffering from depression. Due to his unsettled status, he never got a passport, has never been able to work or claim benefits, and his marriage to a British woman, which the Home Office declared void, collapsed.

Kelvin Bilal Fawaz
Kelvin Bilal Fawaz is awaiting deportation to Nigeria, but he claims he cannot be deported as he is stateless. Kelvin Bilal Fawaz / Facebook

"I am on medications, on anti-depressant. I self-harmed. I know I am a strong man, but even big men can cry. I have mental issues. I am literally in a prison."

However, boxing helps him cope with his situation.

"Boxing did not save me. But I started channeling my anger, my emotions, my pain into so many ideas and one of those was boxing," he explained. "The others were salsa, piano, American football, music. I am good at all those things and they help me relinquish a bit of suppressed emotions."

A spokesperson for the Home Office told Newsweek: "Mr. Fawaz was granted bail on 2 January by an independent immigration judge. His bail conditions state that he must report regularly to the Home Office. His case is ongoing."

A spokesperson also told Newsweek in December 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."

The Nigerian High Commission acknowledged the "immigration saga involving Kelvin Bilal fawaz" but did not provide other details.

More than 15,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org to help Fawaz remain in the U.K.

Meanwhile, he continues to hope that the Home Office will grant him leave to remain, so that he can continue his career and eventually have a family in the U.K.

"This is my home, this is the only place I know. They want to send me to Nigeria and I have no idea what it is," he said.