A high-achieving student who was trafficked from Albania as a child four years ago and abandoned near Bristol is now facing deportation.
More than 85,000 people have so far signed a petition calling on the Home Office to grant St Mary Redcliffe Sixth Form student Stiven Bregu, 18, indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
In 2015, his mum sent him to the UK against his wishes, aged 13, to escape a “violent and abusive” family situation. Despite having no money, no possessions and no English, he somehow managed to find his way to a police station.
Over the past four years, he has grown up in the care of his foster family, supported by Bath and North East Somerset Council.
But, last month, days before he was due to take his A-Level exams, he received a letter from his solicitor saying that his application for indefinite leave to remain had been refused.
“It was shocking. I didn’t expect the answer I got,” Stiven said. “I have been here for four years now. I have got all my friends here.”
Speaking on what returning to Albania would mean for him, he added: “I would have to find a life there. It would really be hard.
“I already had to do that once when I arrived here.”
He spoke of how he spends a lot of time with his foster siblings everyday and how leaving them behind would be “upsetting and stressful”. “We really got a strong bond between us,” he said.
Stiven Bregu. Image Credit: Rob Shaw
Mr Shaw, Stiven’s head of year at St Mary Redcliffe, feels that deporting Stiven would be in breach of his right to a private and family life – protected by Article 8 of the Human Rights Convention – having had no contact with family in Albania since coming to the UK.
He added that Stiven has excelled at school and has been offered an apprenticeship from a wealth management firm in Bristol which he hopes to accept. “He’s been here for four years and this is his home. He has got options – he has been offered an apprenticeship,” he said.
He added: “It does feel like [the Home Office] have not thought about what it must be like for a young person.
“They are making a decision based on the fact that Albania is not seen as a risky or dangerous place, rather than the fact that he has been here for four years alone and has really contributed to his local community.
“I feel they haven’t really understood the situation regarding Stiven and see him only as an 18-year-old who came here illegally.”
He fears that Stiven could again become a target for being trafficked if he returns to Albania.
Stiven has been granted an appeal hearing on July 15 which will determine whether or not he can stay.
What Does The Home Office Say?
A Home Office spokesperson said:”The government has a proud record of providing protection for asylum seekers who are fleeing persecution.
“When assessing asylum claims, all available evidence is carefully and sensitively considered in light of published country information.
“Stiven Bregu’s application to remain in the UK was refused as he did not qualify for asylum under immigration rules.”
Sign the petition to stop Stiven’s deportation here.