Don't deport our star student, pleads college

18th March 2005 at 00:00
Home Office refuses appeal from Albanian who fled Kosovo after his parents were killed. Sarah Pitt reports

A college has promised to back its star student as he faces deportation to his native Kosovo - where he says his parents were killed by Serbs.

Artur Graham, 18, is a level 3 BTec electrical engineering student in his third year at Huntingdon regional college, where he won an award for progress after arriving speaking little English.

But the ethnic Albanian faces deportation. He and his brother Alban, now 21, fled the war-ravaged region in 2000 in the back of a lorry.

The Home Office has rejected his application to stay in the UK to complete his national diploma in electrical and electronic engineering and go on to university - and it has refused him further leave to appeal. Its decision has dismayed the college, which says it cannot see why the authorities want to remove a motivated young man who is acquiring skills that are in short supply in Britain.

College principal Anne Constantine said: "The college will take any legal course to help Artur to stay and complete his national diploma, which would give him the opportunity to get a degree.

"He works very hard, he's really motivated, he's making good progress and I only ever get positive comments about him from the engineering staff.

"It is his ambition to go to university and become an engineer and we are short of engineers in this country, so it does seem a great pity, and of course all the lecturers are very disappointed.

"I feel the Home Office should make some effort as he is at the end of his course and it is in a shortage subject area. It does seem to be a case where an exception should be made."

Jonathan Djanogly, Artur's MP, had pleaded with Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, to reconsider on compassionate grounds.

Alison Graham, Artur's foster mother, has refused to give up. She hopes to take the case to a statutory review, in which a judge re-examines the case, and is being supported by Artur's college.

Laurie York, Artur's tutor and head of engineering at the college, wrote to the immigration appeals adjudicator asking him to allow Artur to remain in the UK.

He said. "It is difficult to see why this is happening. He doesn't have parents to go back to in Kosovo. I've got a queue of people phoning me up with a demand for someone with his qualifications."

Mrs Graham argued that the boys were part of her family and to split them up would be an abuse of their human rights. Artur has taken her surname, and the brothers regard her as their mother.

"They are two great assets to this country," she said. "They are very integrated into this community. They have so much support. If they go back to Kosovo they would not be able to continue their education."

Alban, who is studying for a business diploma at Anglia polytechnic university, is waiting for his appeal for leave to remain in the UK to be decided. It has been delayed after the Home Office lost his paperwork. Mrs Graham says he acted as "father, mother and brother" to 13-year-old Artur when the boys fled alone across Europe, after all their family apart from one cousin had been killed.

They climbed into a lorry in Belgium and remained undetected until the driver stopped at services near Huntingdon. He flagged down a police car and officers delivered the boys to social services. Mrs Graham came out of retirement as a foster carer to take them in.

The Home Office refused to comment.

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