Thursday, March 17, 2011

Supporters win battle to save FC United coach from deportation

 Source: MEN

 An FC United coach has been allowed to stay in the country – after thousands of football fans campaigned to stop him being deported.

Asylum seeker Mehdi Mirzae, a volunteer community coach at the club, was granted a reprieve by the Home Office after supporters said he would be murdered if he was sent back to his native Afghanistan.

Now, after almost four months in a detention centre near Gatwick, he is back home in Harpurhey. Mehdi, 26, fled Afghanistan in 2003 after his family was killed owing to his father’s involvement in an anti-government group. He was captured but his uncle helped him escape to Britain and he settled in Manchester.

Tragedy struck for a second time when the keen footballer was stabbed in Manchester in 2006. He suffered serious injuries and had to give up the sport but retrained as a coach with FC United.

His deportation was halted after his lawyers put forward medical evidence, showing he needs neurosurgery because of the stabbing and they claimed he would not be able to receive the treatment in his home country.

Now, the government is allowing him to stay for a year to enable him to undergo an operation. Campaigners say it will also give them more time to work on a case to allow him to stay permanently.

The news was welcomed by thousands of people who signed a petition to keep him in Manchester. Supporters even staged a football match outside the Houses of Parliament to raise awareness of his plight and FC United asked fans to donate cash to help pay his legal fees. Mehdi spoke of his relief and thanked the people of Manchester.

“I would like to say thank you to every single person who has been campaigning for me,” he said. “It has been a terrible time for me staying in detention for so long, but realising that I have the support has given me extra courage.”

Mehdi is the driving force behind Manchester-based refugee team Omid FC and reserved special thanks for his football friends.

He added: “A special thanks to FC United of Manchester for giving me all this support.”