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Former England boxer, trafficked from Nigeria as a child, wins 16-year-battle to stay in UK

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Kelvin Bilal Fawaz

A former England boxer who was trafficked from Nigeria as a child and forced into domestic servitude has won the right to remain in Britain after a 16-year legal battle.

Kelvin Bilal Fawaz, 32, was granted the right to live and work in Britain for 30 months, after being held in detention centres for months when the government attempted to deport him to Nigeria, which did not recognise him as a citizen.

“The decision means that I am free, that I can have a family, I can start a life,” Fawaz, a light-middleweight champion who has fought for England half a dozen times, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“I don’t have to worry about unwarranted arrest and being taken to a detention centre,” said Fawaz, whose parents were from Lebanon and Benin.

The boxer is among thousands of people trafficked into modern slavery in Britain, many of whom are are fighting to remain in the country after being duped into leaving places such as Albania, Vietnam, China, Romania and Nigeria.

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The Home Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It has previously said it had a duty to protect the public by removing people with criminal records.

Fawaz has multiple convictions for crimes including drug and driving offences, a result of what his lawyers, Duncan Lewis Solicitors, described as him “trying to ‘fit in’ with other boys his age”.

BEATEN

Brought to Britain aged 14 under the pretence of meeting his father, Fawaz was forced to become a domestic worker, beaten and prevented from leaving the house, his lawyers said.

After escaping, Fawaz was taken into local authority care and was granted the right to remain in the country until the age of 18. Multiple applications to stay on as an adult were denied by the Home Office (interior ministry).

He was twice chosen to represent Britain in the Olympics but could not attend because of his immigration status.

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Fawaz said he was on a bus when he heard the news that the Home Office had finally granted him leave to remain. He was so overwhelmed, he got off to kiss the ground.

“I was in shock. I couldn’t breathe, I was gasping for breath … I started screaming out of joy,” he said.

“I knelt down and kissed the floor, I didn’t care if anyone had spat on it or about coronavirus. I knelt down and kissed the floor and said ‘I am British’.”

Only a minority of victims who are confirmed as modern slaves receive a residence permit, allowing them to live in Britain permanently, according to anti-trafficking charities.

“It has been an incredibly positive outcome for Bilal, but also serves as a reminder to everyone that there are hundreds of others, being overlooked all too easily by the government,” said Sumbul Phillips of Duncan Lewis Solicitors.

People who say they have been enslaved enter the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) and access care, from housing and healthcare to legal aid, while the government considers their claim. The process can take from six weeks to several years.

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Unable to legally work, trafficking victims live on a stipend of 65 pounds ($80) a week while awaiting a decision on their case, with delays leading many vulnerable people to homelessness and fresh exploitation, anti-slavery groups say.

Now that he has the right to stay in Britain, Fawaz said he looked forward to competing professionally and winning more titles.

“After 16 years, all of a sudden, within one phone call everything changed. It’s crazy. Now I have to knuckle down, I need to hit the ground running,” he said. “I have faith, I still have that hunger in me, I have that fire.”

Reuters

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Arsenal announce plans to lay off some staff

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Arsenal board Premier League

Arsenal has announced plans to make 55 members of their staff redundant because of the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Gunners’ first-team players and head coach Mikel Arteta agreed to a 12.5% pay cut in April.

Arsenal’s executive team also agreed to waive more than a third of their salaries over the next 12 months.

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However, the club says they now face “more significant and longer-lasting reductions in our revenue than we all hoped.”

Arsenal added they did not take the decision to propose redundancies “lightly” and had looked at “every aspect of the club and our expenditure before reaching this point.”

“We know this is upsetting and difficult for our dedicated staff and our focus is on managing this as sensitively as possible,” the club concluded in a statement.

The redundancies are in the football, commercial and administration departments, with the majority coming in the latter two.

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There will also be cuts to staff benefits, capital projects and discretionary projects, but investments will continue to be made in the playing staff and Arsenal’s transfer plans are unaffected.

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Man City sign Ake

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Manchester City has confirmed the £41m signing of Nathan Ake from Bournemouth.

The versatile Dutch international center-back has signed a five-year deal at Etihad Stadium and becomes City’s second arrival in as many days following the capture of Spanish winger Ferran Torres from Valencia.

Chelsea elected not to exercise the £40m buy-back clause they inserted into the deal when Ake left Stamford Bridge for the south coast back in 2017.

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It’s a club-record sale for relegated Bournemouth, who initially signed the defender for £20m.

Speaking after completing his move from Bournemouth to Manchester City, Ake expressed his love for City’s manager Pep Guardiola’s playing style

“City has been the best side in England over the course of the last decade,” he said.

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“Coming here is a dream for me. This is a top side full of world-class players. Everywhere you look in this squad there are big names with international pedigree.

“Pep is a manager admired across the world – what he’s done in the game speaks for itself. The success he’s had is unbelievable and the style of football he plays really appeals to me.

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“I know I’m going to have to work hard to get into the side, but that’s what I’m here to do. I’ll do whatever I can to make an impact and help the team win silverware.”

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Man United eye Leicester’s goalkeeper, Kasper Schmeichel

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Kasper Schmeichel has emerged as a surprise summer transfer target for Manchester United as they weigh up the future of their goalkeeping situation.

The son of Red Devils legend Peter Schmeichel has been a crucial part of Leicester’s success over recent years, and it has been reported that United are pondering an offer amid criticism aimed at the increasingly error-prone David de Gea and question marks over whether Sheffield United loanee Dean Henderson is ready to step up on a full-time basis.

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And according to former Manchester City team-mate Mikkel Bischoff, Kasper would jump at the chance to follow in his famous father’s footsteps.

“United will certainly not be deterred by his age of 33 years,” he told Ekstra Bladet. “The most successful goalkeepers at the club in recent years have been well into their thirties.

“He can easily play three or four good years there.

“Schmeichel is a huge United fan. He always has been and always will be, it will be the biggest dream come true if he were to succeed.

“If Kasper gets the opportunity to play just ten games for United, then he jumps. It’s simply so big for him. He is such a big fan that he will do anything to get to that club.”

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