United Kingdom-based Zimbabwean footballer, Christopher Arundell, is set to be deported to Zimbabwe, despite a cross-party appeal to the Home Secretary to stop his removal — and those of others in his position.
The 26-year old Arundell grew up in the United Kingdom having left Zimbabwe at the age of 5 and once dreamt of playing professional football.
Speaking to BBC over the phone from Brook House detention centre, near Gatwick Airport, where he has been held since late last month, Arundell said:
Are you in Zimbabwe?
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This is the only place I have had a life. What do you remember from when you are five?
I don’t know anything, but the UK. I went to school here, all my friends are here, all my family is here.
If I have to go back — I’m basically dead.
Arundell’s family have become British citizens, including his two younger siblings.
He said his father kept putting off paying the money to sort out his citizenship so he dropped out of the football academy that had accepted him after leaving school.
Arundell ended up getting into trouble and going to prison for drug offences.
He is of mixed heritage: his mother is half Indian and his father grew up as an orphan in Zimbabwe.
Chris speaks English, but neither of Zimbabwe’s two main local languages, Shona or Ndebele.
Last week a cross-party group of 75 British MPs wrote to Home Secretary Priti Patel urging her to stop the deportation of 50 Zimbabweans.
The legislators raised concern over Zimbabwe’s “deteriorating” political and human rights situation but Patel said she was required by law to send back foreign offenders when it was safe to do so.
In a statement to BBC, the Home Office said about Arundells’ case:
We only ever return those who we and, where applicable, the courts are satisfied do not need our protection and have no legal basis to remain in the UK.
Since January 2019, the Home Office says it has removed more than 7 900 foreign national offenders.