When Siavash arrived in the UK from Iran – it’s not clear how – he and his younger brother, his only companion, claimed to be 15 and 12 years old respectively. Claiming asylum, they were informed by a refugee charity that as long as they remained in full-time education, they’d be looked after by government welfare until reaching the age of 25. They could even obtain a University degree this way.
According to The Daily Mail, Siavash was a polite and hard-working student at Stoke High School in Ipswich. But many of the school’s 668 female pupils weren’t exactly comfortable in class with a man who looked closer to 30 than 20 posing as under 18.
‘As soon as he started at the school, we all thought he looked far too old,’ a girl in Siavash’s year later recalled.
‘You could see the shadow of his beard on his face. He was wearing glasses, but they did not look prescription. It was almost as if he had them to make himself look younger. Everyone was making jokes as we went into registration saying, “What is a man doing in our school?”’
According to parents, he had confided in some classmates that he was in his 20’s and married with two children and posing as a teenager because his academic qualifications weren’t recognised in the UK.
“So my son’s school now let’s [sic] in 30-year-old men,” one parent wrote on Facebook. “That’s some huge security breach. Apparently, he sits on a bench at break times close to where a group of girls hang out, just looking.”
“He started FaceTiming my friend [using an online video link], sending her messages, asking how close she lived to the school,” said one student. “She was a bit concerned because he seemed so old. He kept messaging her during the night, and in the morning he texted her saying, “Hello, how are you?” She told the maths teacher and was taken to the safeguarding teacher who looked at the messages and said there was nothing sinister about them.”
Parents who tried to complain were reportedly dismissed by staff, who had claimed in some cases complaints were motivated by racism.
“I went in [to] complain but I was fobbed off. They are deluded and seem more worried about how the bloke might feel,” said a father of two girls from Stoke High. “I am not aware of this lad having done anything inappropriate, but it’s clearly wrong that he should be in a class with children.”
Parents at one stage pinpointed a Facebook account with the same name and surname as Siavash and photos of a man of similar appearance. It claimed he was a former architecture student from an Iranian University and had previously lived in the German city of Erfurt. Pictures appeared to show the account owner drinking beer at a motor-racing event. Before it could be confirmed if the account indeed belonged to Siavash, it had vanished.
Eventually, the school passed on concerns about Siavash to the UK Home Office, and on November 2 it emerged that both he and his brother had been removed from the school under investigation.
Several parents had removed their children from the school over the asylum seeker’s presence, with some returning them now only after assurances he will not be back.
As The Daily Mail correctly points out, Siavash likely did what Britain’s overly generous asylum system incentivises; destroy their ID papers so they can claim to be a vulnerable child:
“Britain’s system, under which around 3,000 unaccompanied youngsters — around 80 per cent of whom are male — claim asylum each year, came under intense scrutiny in 2016 when a busload of alleged teenagers arrived in Croydon after being transferred to the UK from Calais.
By claiming to be children, the new arrivals were entitled not just to free education, but also to places in local authority children’s homes (in areas with high migrant populations such as Kent, up to half the places in such homes are taken by unaccompanied asylum seekers).
Yet critics have long pointed out that those rules also create an incentive for adult migrants to simply destroy ID papers and pose as vulnerable children. Indeed, several of the young men who disembarked from the coaches in Croydon appeared to be square-jawed men in their 20s or 30s.”
The relatively recent issue of migrant arrivals claiming to be children but appearing to be (mostly men) in their 20s and 30s has been the subject of many controversies. A backbench Tory MP, David Davies, called for them to be given dental exams to confirm their true age, pointing out this had recently been introduced in Norway which found 9 out of 10 of those tested were over 18.
For this suggestion, Davies was likened to Hitler.