For most people, memories of being nine years old means remembering the heady thrills of carefree childhood. However, for Bashir Naderi, his memory of being nine is of his father being murdered in front of him by the Taliban.
This violent trauma is in fact his only childhood memory from when he lived in Afghanistan, because shortly after that terrible experience his mother sold their family plot of land to send him to safety. After an arduous journey, he arrived in the UK.
As a refugee here for the past ten years, Bashir has had no contact with any family in Afghanistan. He does not know whether his mother is even still alive. He can’t converse in any Afghan languages.
He has however built a life here.
Bashir is my constituent in Cardiff. He grew up in Cardiff with his foster mum Dawn and went to Mary Immaculate High School. He learnt English. He got nine GCSEs and went on to our local FE College to study. He has integrated in every way anyone could ask of him and worked hard to fully contribute to British society. You can hear his Welsh accent and he has made Cardiff, and the UK his home.
But last October, just as he has got to a position where he could look to start his career, pay taxes and put back into the economy, his life was turned upside down. After reporting for his regular required monthly sign-in at the Home Office, he was arrested, taken to a detention centre in Oxfordshire and told he was being put on a plane to Afghanistan. Imagine being wrenched away from your girlfriend, your family and locked up miles away from home out of the blue.
Bashir is in this situation because, even if you flee to the UK as an unaccompanied child in circumstances like he did, when you reach the age of eighteen you have to apply for permanent leave to remain here. If it isn’t granted, you are sent back to the country you originally came from, no matter how long ago that was.
In desperation, his family and friends started a petition and got thousands of people to sign, including celebrities like Charlotte Church, Cerys Matthews and Jamie Baulch. Just a few hours before he was due to board the plane he was given a temporary reprieve from his forced removal from the UK. But he is now living with the threat of removal over his head every day. The Home Office is not willing to concede the case and let him stay.
As a child he arrived in our country alone, scared and looking for refuge. The very idea of sending him away now he’s over 18 is in my view, morally and politically unjustified. So I’m fighting with Bashir’s supporters to keep him in the UK.
Last week I went to the Home Office with Bashir, his girlfriend Nicole and their family to hand in a petition signed by over 14,000 people demanding that the Home Secretary allows Bashir to stay here – you can still sign it here, or write to your own MP here. If you do, please ask them to write to the Home Secretary to ask her what she is going to do. I want her to instruct her officials and lawyers to concede that Bashir be allowed to stay.
Yes, Bashir was born in another country, but he grew up here. Afghanistan isn’t his home and he has no ability or desire to make it so. He should have as much right to stay in the country as I do – I know I would have as much of a chance of surviving in Afghanistan as him.
Jo Stevens is the shadow secretary of state for Wales and Labour MP for Cardiff Central.