A Bristol teenager facing deportation back to Albania is ‘overwhelmed’ with support after almost 90,000 people signed a petition calling for him to be allowed to stay in the city.
Stiven Bregu faces an appeal hearing in Newport on Monday (July 15) to determine whether he will be allowed to continue living in Bristol as an adult.
The 18-year-old was just 13 when he was handed to people traffickers by his mother in Albania, and taken against his will on an arduous journey across Europe.
He’d turned 14 by the time he was dumped at the side of the road in the middle of the night on the outskirts of Keynsham back in 2015.
He had no family, friends, money or contacts and didn’t speak a word of English, but managed to find a police station and ask for help.
As a lone child, he was taken into care, and fostered by a family in Totterdown, Bristol. Within six months of him starting at St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School, he’d mastered English and made friends through a shared love of football.
Within two years, he’d passed his GCSEs with flying colours and shown himself to be something of a maths genius.
In the past two years, as he stayed on at sixth form, he participated in the Mayor’s City Leadership Programme, and has become a star of that programme, and a key mentor to younger pupils at the school.
But just as he was preparing for his A-level exams a couple of months ago, the Home Office announced it had decided that as soon as he left full-time education and turned 18, he would have to return to Albania – where he says he has no family connections anymore.
Instead, he wants to continue his adult life in Bristol, and take up the offer of an apprenticeship at a top city wealth management firm, to contribute back to the society and the city which took him in as a child.
Since then, a staggering 89,000 people have signed – and counting. It looks set to get close to 100,000 by the time Stiven and his supporters sit down to convince the authorities he should be allowed to stay.
The effect of the petition support has been overwhelming for Stiven, Mr Shaw said.
‘It has really helped’
“He’s doing fine, and the petition has gone much better than we thought,” he said. “Everything is looking to Monday, although we are told we won’t find out for a couple of weeks after that.
“Even if the fact that so many people have signed the petition has no effect on the appeal, it has really helped Stiven to know that he has such amazing support.
“He’s realised he has a lot of support from Bristol, and that has really helped through what has been a very difficult time.
“It’s been difficult preparing for the appeal, and it’s so overwhelming for him to see so many people hearing about his case and pledging their support,” he added.