KELVIN FAWAZ has been released from a detention centre. Even though the amateur boxer, a national champion in 2012, has lived in Britain for 14 years, his immigration status remains unresolved. Denied the right to live and work in the UK, the Home Office could not deport him as no other country recognises him as a citizen. A man without a state, he was being held in a detention centre, seemingly indefinitely.
Fawaz was born in Nigeria, to foreign parents and so is not a Nigerian citizen. When he was just 14 years old in he was brought to the UK, through no choice of his own, where he cooked and cleaned, working essentially as a slave while he waited for a parent who never came. He ran away then but has remained in limbo ever since.
Undocumented, he has been therefore unable to work. Lucrative offers for him to turn professional were tabled but he could not take them up. At least he had his liberty, until, last year, undercover officers snatched him from Stonebridge amateur boxing club and incarcerated him as the Home Office attempted to deport him.
“They just detained me because they had the power. They had no process already in place to remove me from the country. They had no reason to detain me,” Fawaz tells Boxing News. “It’s like being in a prison.”
“It maximised my stress, it made me self-harm,” he continued. “It intensified all the emotions that I’ve been burying and it just came out. At times I know how to ride a storm and pretend that everything is going. But I’m human. I have emotions, I have feelings. I’m bound to break down at some point. You keep hitting something so long, eventually it’s going to bend.”
He was held for weeks, with no idea of when he would be released or even if he would be deported to Nigeria, a country where he has no ties.
Fawaz, as well as winning the national championships has even boxed for England, against Nigeria no less.
After Boxing News reported on his predicament in December, his story would subsequently come to nationwide attention, appearing in newspapers and even on BBC and ITV television.
“I knew that the public and the press were helping but I didn’t know the extent to how much,” he said. “It’s amazing how people can stand behind you.”
Fawaz was held in the detention centre over Christmas. “My happiest time is Christmas because I have this warm feeling in my heart. When I walk past and I look at homes and I see everyone sitting down. I want one of those,” Kelvin said. He wants a home. “And I can’t have that. I might be a strong person in the ring. But there are other things to a person. When you see a boxer, don’t think that they’re strong. They’ve just practised something for so long that they’re good at it. In a different aspect of their life they’re just another human being,” he explained. “It hurts, it really, really hurts.”
This week his bail application was finally successful. On video link to the court Fawaz, remarkably, represented himself. “I knew that nobody can represent my case better than I can, because it’s happening to me,” he said. “So I decided to take matters into my own hands.”
He was released on Tuesday evening. By Wednesday night he was back in his boxing club.
There he spoke exclusively to Boxing News. “It made me have a different perspective about my freedom because things that we take for granted, it becomes very vivid when you come out. I can walk around the streets, go to the shops and I couldn’t do that for months. When I came out, it just hasn’t sunk in,” he said.
He still can’t work. He has to live under certain restrictions while he waits for a court case. The date is not set.
“Right now,” Kelvin reflected. “I’m in a bigger prison.”