Tag Archives: Seyfu Jamaal

Runner faces UK deportation

A runner from Ethiopia who dreams of representing Team GB is facing deportation back to his home country even though a state of emergency has been declared there.

Seyfu Jamaal, 21, arrived in the UK aged 17 after travelling to the UK in the back of a lorry and claimed asylum. The Home Office accepts he was persecuted and trafficked before he arrived in the UK. But officials refused his asylum claim in May of this year after keeping him waiting for more than three and a half years for a decision, saying it would be safe for him to return home.

Current advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is against travel to Ethiopia – where a state of emergency was declared on 2 November – because of its ongoing military conflict.

Jamaal has received support from The Running Charity, which is campaigning for him to be allowed to remain in the UK. Alex Eagle from the charity said that Jamaal has become one of its most committed and popular runners.

Eagle said: “Seyfu has built a community and family within the UK. His bond with our coaches, our young people, and the wider running community have become his family. So many of our young people draw inspiration from him, model his behaviour and his attitude to training. The community would be so much poorer without him.”

In June 2019, Jamaal won the London Landmarks Half Marathon in a course record of 1hr 8mins 50secs. He is a regular top 10 finisher in the national parkrun times and his ambition is to run and represent Team GB. He also mentors other young runners.

Jamaal is traumatised by the things that happened to him before he reached the UK and is distressed by the Home Office’s refusal of his asylum claim. He said: “Running removes my stress, my mental problems. It helps me forget, it’s my remedy. When I run I am healthy, I am happy. There are times you remember the problems, the journey, the traffickers, but I feel safe in England.

“I have never felt unsafe when I have been here. People think slavery has been abolished. Between Sudan and Libya, we were treated as a commodity, bought and sold, bought and sold, people telling you they own you, that you are their property. You always feel captured.”

Esme Madill, a solicitor at the migrant and refugee children’s legal unit at Islington Law Centre, said: “Seyfu applied for asylum in November 2017 while still a child. He had to wait until May 2021 for a decision on his application. A three-and-a-half-year delay which was devastating for him.

“The Home Office have accepted his account but say it is safe for him to return despite the government’s own advice. Given the Home Office promise, post-Windrush, to place greater emphasis on a more compassionate approach to individual applications, it is disappointing that no compassion was shown to Seyfu, and no recognition of his wonderful contribution to the running community.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Human trafficking has absolutely no place in our society and we are committed to tackling these heinous crimes, while ensuring victims are protected and receive the support they need through our national referral mechanism.”