An illegal immigrant who was smuggled into the UK after his father and brother were murdered by militants in his native Afghanistan has lost his fight to remain in the UK. Najibullah Hashimi, 19, has been living in England ever since fleeing his war-torn homeland as a youngster.
He has since settled well in the UK, and has the full backing of his foster family, his girlfriend, and his teammates at Rodmersham Cricket Club in Kent. Hashimi and crowds of supporters - including his foster father's two young sons, who refer to the Afghan national as "brother" - put forward a case for a right to remain in the UK last month. However, a letter from the Home Office has since confirmed Mr Hashimi has failed in his appeal, and will be sent to Kabul - despite hearing his concerns that his life will be in danger.
Steve Griffiths, his foster father, on Monday described Hashimi as "a broken man", but said his solicitor may yet contest the decision. He said: "We are all devastated. My family, my two boys - they cannot believe this. We are all very worried for Najib. He is part of our family, he is part of our lives - you couldn't meet a nicer fellow. Najib has settled here, he has done very well in his education and he wants to give something back. There were so many people from throughout the community who went to support Najib ahead of the court hearing last month, we all want him here."
He said Hashimi and his solicitor have until the end of the week to consider what course of action they will take next. Griffiths said: "Najib's absolutely beside himself. He is worried for his life, and he doesn't want to leave here. As we understand it, he will simply be flown to Kabul and then left to face it alone. It's terrible."
Last month's tribunal was told how Hashimi, who moved to the UK unable to speak the language, was "treated like a son and a brother" to his foster family - Griffiths, his wife Michelle and their children, Tyler, 10, and Finlay, eight. His girlfriend, 15-year-old Lucy Pearce, also said how she relied on her "inspirational boyfriend" for support. Wiping away tears, she said: "I don't want to embarrass him but if he could stay I want to be with him as long as possible."
Hashimi said his mother, sister and uncle are living in Pakistan, but that he would be returned to Afghanistan if his appeal failed. Referring to his foster family in Kent, he said: "I have lost one family five years ago, I don't want to lose the second. "It is going to be heart-breaking. When I am with them (Tyler and Finlay) it's like nothing has happened to me. I don't remember what has happened in the past."
Hashimi said he planned to become a teacher, but is also a regular at his local cricket club. But Paul Duffy, for the Home Office, told the hearing in London how the decision could not hinge on a "popularity contest". He said: "We're talking about a very popular person, he's a credit to himself and his foster carers. But the ultimate problem in this context is it's not a popularity contest. Even if the appellant's family (his mother) is in Pakistan, the appellant is now an adult. He will return to Kabul."