U.K. Home Office Is Trying to Deport Two 'Stateless' Men to Nigeria and Palestine

A man who claims to be stateless has been denied the possibility to remain in the U.K., as the Home Office refuses to accept he is originally from Palestine.

Mohammed Al-Mustafa, 36, claims he left Palestine with his parents after his brother was killed. He was five at the time.

Mustafa and his family fled without identity documents. They lived without legal status in several countries, including Syria, Italy and France. In 2010 they relocated to the U.K., where Mustafa sought asylum.

The Home Office rejected his application, noting his nationality as "Palestinian Authority," and adding that his life would not be at risk if he returned home.

Mustafa has tried to go back to Palestine twice. His attempts proved unsuccedsful as he cannot travel without identity documents. The Mission of Palestine in the U.K. is not able to issue such documents to him.

He then filed an application to be recognized as a stateless person, on grounds that the U.K. does not recognize Palestine as a state.

However, the Home Office rejected Mustafa's claim that he was stateless, arguing that some of the answers he gave raised suspicions he is not really from Palestine.

Questions that Mustafa failed to answer correctly include listing the typical foods around the Gaza Strip, reciting the Palestinian national anthem—which was introduced in 1996, nine years after he left—and drawing the Palestinian flag, The Guardian reported.

Home Office
A general view of The Home Office on July 8, 2014 in London, England. Two men are facing deportation after the Home Office rejected their claims they are stateless. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Al-Mustafa's solicitor, Michael Ferguson, from charity The Passage, criticized the Home Office's decision: "All through the asylum process, which started in 2010, they've never questioned that he's from Palestine—they've tried to send him back to Palestine themselves," he said. "I just think to pick out these small things, it's shameful really."

A spokesperson for the Home Office told The Guardian: "We do not routinely comment on individual cases."

Mustafa's case is similar to that of boxing champion Kelvin Bilal Fawaz. The 29-year-old athlete, who lived in Britain half of his life and represented England at international level several times, is awaiting deportation to Nigeria as his leave to remain in the U.K. has expired.

He spent 34 days at the Tinsley House immigration center and was released on bail in January. But his future in the country remains uncertain.

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

Fawaz claims 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. aged 14 and was forced to become a domestic slave by a man he thought was an uncle.

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 committed during his stay in the U.K.

"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," Fawaz told Newsweek duing a phone interview while he was at the detention center.

"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."