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Canada detains man posing as 17-year-old student

SAMAA | - Posted: Apr 29, 2016 | Last Updated: 6 years ago
Posted: Apr 29, 2016 | Last Updated: 6 years ago


OTTAWA: Canadian authorities have detained a 30-year-old South Sudanese man for lying about his age, saying he claimed to be 17 in order to play high school basketball.

According to an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing transcript obtained by AFP Thursday, Jonathan Nicola received a full athletic scholarship to play basketball at a Catholic school in Windsor, Ontario.

He landed in Toronto last November on a two-year student permit and started living at his coach’s home while attending Grade 11 classes.

A local newspaper even published a feature story about the six-foot-nine, 202-pound basketball phenom whose coach said had a shot at playing in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Officials, however, now say he lied in his application to come to Canada.

“It is believed that he has misrepresented his age by 12 years,” a government lawyer told a recent Immigration and Refugee Board hearing.

In his passport and other documents, Nicola listed a birthday in 1998. But US authorities informed Canada that he had given a different date of birth in 1986 when he made a US refugee claim in 2007, which had been denied.

Nicola told the hearing that he does not really know how old he is, that he repeatedly pressed his mother about his age but she could not remember.

“I really do not know what is my real age, I cannot tell you what is my real age,” he testified.

Documents showed he was born in Saudi Arabia, where his father still works as a mechanical engineer.

Nicola said he lived in Syria for a period after his parents separated, before returning to South Sudan with his mother.

“I did not came here to harm any people or do something bad, all my goal is to study and get the education so I can go back home, I can help my mother, I can help all my rest of the family,” he said.

Nicola was arrested at his school on April 15.

A decision on his admissibility to Canada is expected within a month. But even if the Immigration and Refugee Board finds there is reason to deport him, he cannot be sent back to South Sudan at the present time due to unrest in the country. – AFP

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