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Runaway Iraqi student faces arrest

An Iraqi student who has gone missing from a home faces being arrested, a Home Office spokesman said.

Rabar Hamad arrived in Wigan, Greater Manchester, two years ago in the wheel arch of a truck, and a place was found for him in a home in Oldham.

He claims he is 16 but social workers said he was 20 and he was asked to leave the home.

According to reports, Wigan Council undertook two age assessments with the Iraqi, both of which said he was over 18. However, an independent tribunal doctor found he was between the ages of 13 and 16.

The student says his original documents have been lost and that the Home Office will not accept photocopies.

A spokesman for the Home Office said: "We can confirm Rabar Hamed has absconded. Immigration absconders are liable to be arrested on sight and anyone facilitating their continued presence runs the risk of prosecution, up to 14 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine."

According to the reports, his supporters fear he will be deported. They have started a campaign to try to stop him being sent back to Iraq, where he fears he could be in danger.

A spokesman for the Rabar Hamad Must Stay Campaign said: "Rabar is staying in a place where he feels safe with people who are ensuring his basic day-to-day needs are being met. We continue to work towards maintaining the legal requirements set by the UK Border Agency."

Matthew Coats, Head of the UK Border Agency's Immigration Group, said: "Disputes over age are a difficult issue in any case which is why it is so important to estalish the true age. We need to be sure we are correctly supporting the individual according to their needs but also protecting children from adults who pose as minors.

"We rely on the age assessments carried out by local authority social workers to ensure our immigration laws are not evaded by those who try to cheat the system. Individuals who no longer have a right to be in the UK are instructed to leave. If they fail to depart by the allocated flight then we will seek to remove them."

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