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18-year-old failed Afghan asylum seeker picked up from school

Disgraceful, says MP Jenny Willott

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29th March 2011:
The UK Border Agency’s action of arresting a pupil — a 18-year-old failed asylum seeker from Afghanistan — has not gone down well with the school authorities.

Reacting to the arrest, the headmaster of the Cardiff school has decided to take up the issue with the powers that be. He has made clear his intentions of meeting the UK Border Agency authorities to discuss how the student was arrested when school was in session.

The issue has already been discussed by governors at a meeting on Wednesday. Headmaster Rod Phillips is now expected to meet the Border Agency officials to talk about how the operation was handled.

The failed asylum seeker, Amanullah Armani, was detained by the Border Agency officers after they went into Cathays High School on Crown Way Gabalfa at 9.25 am on Monday.

The teachers were asked to handover Armani, even though they had not been informed about the operation in advance.

Armani had arrived in Cardiff six months ago from Afghanistan, but had failed to get asylum. He was scheduled to fly home on Wednesday.

Armani is now in the process of appealing. Cardiff Central Liberal Democrat MP Jenny Willott is also making representations for him. He has already written to the Immigration Minister.

Willott said he understood the UK Border Agency went to Cathays High en masse. Armani was basically taken out of his class and arrested and taken away which, he thought personally, was disgraceful.

Willott said he has written to the immigration minister about the way Armani was picked up at the school as he thought it was completely unacceptable.

Cathays High has a very large number of asylum-seeking children, particularly unaccompanied asylum-seeking pupils. There are going to be other children in the same situation as him who would be terrified, particularly if they came from countries where that happens to other people.

Head teacher Phillips said it was normally the case they were collected from home addresses rather than school. Clearly there was some emotion involved.

It was not a comfortable situation for all parties and clearly a number of parties have been upset by this particular event, which was regrettable.

The Border Agency, on the other hand, said it avoided going into schools unless it was “absolutely necessary”.

UK Border Agency Regional Director for Wales Jane Farleigh said their officers never carry firearms and were simply wearing standard protective clothing. This individual was not detained in a classroom and was not taken away in a secure van.

They were legally entitled to carry out operations involving immigration offenders on school premises but avoid doing so unless absolutely necessary. They were meeting the school and others involved in this case to discuss any concerns about how the operation was conducted.

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