Author- Greg Russell
A YOUNG Libyan asylum seeker in Scotland, who has set his sights on becoming a professional boxer, has waited months for his claim to be heard and it could be a year or more before the Home Office decides if he can stay.
Monther Mesrati came here twice as a visitor to reconnoitre his further education options before arriving on a six-month student visa in 2015.
Now 25, he completed his HND in architecture at college in Dundee with good grades, but said he had let himself down because of worries over his immigration status – or lack of it – after his first asylum claim was rejected.
His home country has been in turmoil since the Arab Spring protests of 2011 triggered civil war and the downfall of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
Even today the UK Foreign Office describes conditions in Libya as “fragile” and the security situation as “dangerous and unpredictable”.
Mesrati feels his homeland is far from safe: “Libya is in a state of war and it’s not the safest place to go.
“The country is corrupt, dangerous and you can’t build a wall to stop people going in or out.
“I did an HND in architecture and I had good grades, although I could have done better. There were so many other things going on with the Home Office and so on.
“I didn’t know what asylum was and was only told about it when I explained my situation. Lawyers and people at the college told me I should claim asylum because of the situation in Libya.”
He said he often thought about quitting his studies, such was the pressure of having to cope with his status.
He said: “I was in two minds wondering whether I should carry on, but I did and graduated, but with a clearer mind I could have done better.”
The renewal of Mesrati’s student visa was refused because his bank account was £7 short of the required £8000 balance – just hours before a regular payment from his brother took it over that level.
He was unable to pursue his horse riding hobby in Dundee, but being a fit and active sports lover, he found boxing and, at 6ft 3ins and weighing in at 200lbs, he slotted into the light-heavyweight class.
“I’ve been doing some training every day and joined this boxing gym four months ago after training on my own every day,” he said.
“I didn’t join because you have to get a licence and they would ask about my status papers and I didn’t want to have to explain it all again.
“So, I’ve been in this boxing gym and haven’t missed a day. I’m really serious about it and they’ve been talking about getting my amateur licence. Without it I can’t really go and take part in competitions, but I can carry on training.
“I’ve only been there for four months, but even the punchbags know me. Ultimately I want to box professionally, but it’s all based on me getting my papers.”
Mesrati’s coach at the Skyaxe gym in Dundee is Paul Kean, Scotland’s super welterweight champion, who told the Sunday National he had potential as a boxer.
“He’s a great young man and fantastic to coach,” he said. “He gets on well with everyone at the club and he’s always cheery.
“He’s a big and fit young man and he’s got potential. He’s sparring with people who have a lot more experience than him and he’s doing really well against them.”
Usman Aslam, the immigration lawyer now representing Mesrati, said he should be granted asylum by law because of the continuing unrest in Libya.
However, he said the case raised other issues: “I think this highlights some serious concerns in the ‘fresh claim for asylum process’, and on the back of the previous article written by The National about the questionable decision-making process.
“We made an appointment for his claim in May, and we were told this would be in September 2019. He could be six to 12 months without a decision thereafter.
“What is worse is that the law in respect of Libyan nationals has been made very clear by the courts.
“The Home Office already accepts he is Libyan, so there is no challenge as to his nationality, which can sometimes be the case. The law says he is entitled to protection in the UK, therefore this, in our view, is a case that can be resolved very quickly.”
Aslam said his client was well regarded in his community and had a bright future in Scotland with his potential boxing career and academic qualifications which would help the economy, making him the ideal candidate for Scotland.