Instead of deporting this talented teenager, we should have sent him to uni

Bok Rahman was told he’s not ‘exceptional’ enough to stay in the UK

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Last June, 18-year-old Bok Rahman was arrested and taken to a detention centre in Kent from his home in East Sussex. Bok came to the UK from Bangladesh seven years ago when he was 12 years old, sent by his parents out of fear for his safety. Aged 18, his application for a passport was unsuccessful and so he was deported.

Before he was sent back to Bangladesh, Bok had been living in Sussex and studying for his A-levels. As well as impressing at school, he was also a star-cricketer at Hailsham Cricket Club, captaining multiple teams and working as a student coach. With exams around the corner, he was excited about the chance to go to university.

Rob Wilkinson, his school P.E teacher and cricket coach said when Bok first arrived in the UK he was a reserved guy, with little English. By the time he’d reached 18, he’d become a key part of the community.

Rob said: “He is a member of our family. We spent thousands of pounds educating him and a lot of time raising him. He has lot to offer this country.”

Bok and his cricket team, pictured front centre

Bok was denied the right to remain in the UK on the grounds he wasn’t “exceptional” enough. Now he’s in Bangladesh where he has no friends, only distant relatives and only a basic command of the language.

Bok’s case makes a mockery of our current immigration system, as he seems to be exactly the sort of person a multi-cultural Britain should embrace. Rather than sending him away, he should be held up as a success story for immigration and given the opportunity to continue to study here. As Bok’s foster father told journalists: “He is an exceptional student who always got distinctions on college work, he helped with the cricket club and he is an exceptional person.”

Sending him to Bangladesh, in reality, has achieved nothing. A kid is displaced, and Britain is no better off for it. But his cricket club, school and family are now lacking an integral figure in their lives.

There’s definitely a moral issue with allowing some talented or smart immigrants to remain, and kicking anyone else out back to the conditions which caused them to leave in the first place. The right to live and operate in the culture which raised you is important, regardless of how “exceptional” you are. Such a limiting test forgets people can contribute in meaningful and important ways without ever needing to be “exceptional”.

Bok and Rob at his school graduation – he was a ‘straight A’ student

Legality is complicated and often disallows for nuance – a blanket law regarding whether immigrants should be allowed to stay in the country is clearly not good enough. When an 18-year-old kid whose whole life is based around a community in Britain is told he has to leave, something in the system has clearly gone wrong.

But how do we account for the “bad” kids? While there’s no question Bok should be allowed to stay, sympathies shift when the person in question hasn’t assimilated into life in the UK and isn’t contributing meaningfully. Is it still wrong to deport those individuals? Hopefully most would argue yes, but it’s hard to give a reason why, beyond a sense it’s morally right.

It’s a difficult situation to solve and probably, like most things, comes down to discrepancy. A blanket law in either direction obviously can’t work but making a value judgment on someone’s ability to be “exceptional” is a misguided and misplaced way of tackling the issue. Someone’s life and place in society shouldn’t be based upon how good at football or chemistry they are.

Regardless of the legal complexities of refugee status, immigration and citizenship, one thing is very clear: Bok, and people like Bok are good for the UK, and we should want them studying in our universities and coaching at our cricket clubs. We owe them the right to remain in the society which raised them. It doesn’t take a degree in moral philosophy to realise that.

Hailsham cricket club have started a petition to get Bok back to the UK. You should probably sign it.