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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Sierra Leone sprinter 'sleeping rough' ~ seeks asylum in UK

‘sleep rough’ – would mean – ‘ to spend the night in the open; be without a home or without shelter’.  2014 Commonwealth Games (officially the XX Commonwealth Games) were held in Glasgow, Scotland, from 23 July to 3 August 2014. It  was the largest multi-sport event ever held in Scotland, participated by 71 Nations  with around 4,560  athletes across 17 different sports. It is the sad plight of an athlete who like others aspired to run his way to glory.  He competed in the 100-meter relay race at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow full of pride. Exercise was once a way for him to compete, to show off his stuff. Now, it’s a way for him to keep warm. He now runs to ward off the London cold, and uses a park gym to stay in shape with the hopes of returning to competition on the world stage. Sad to read !

Sierra Leone is a country in West Africa, bordered by Guinea, Liberia and the Atlantic Ocean.  Sierra Leone has a tropical climate, with a diverse environment ranging from savannah to rainforests.  Freetown is the capital, largest city, and its economic and political centre.  About sixteen ethnic groups inhabit Sierra Leone, each with their own language and custom. The two largest and most influential are the Temne and the Mende people. Although English is the official language spoken at schools and government administration, the Krio language is the most widely spoken language in the country and unites all the different ethnic groups in the country, especially in their trade and social interaction with each other.  In 1961, Sir Milton Margai led Sierra Leone to independence from Great Britain and became the country's first Prime Minister. Much water has flowed since as the country was ravaged by civil wars and presently by an epidemic.

Globally Ebola is the dreaded thing …. Ebola virus disease (EVD), Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF), or simply Ebola is a disease of humans and other primates caused by an ebola virus.  The virus may be acquired upon contact with blood or bodily fluids of an infected human or other animal. Fruit bats are believed to be a carrier and may spread the virus without being affected. Once human infection occurs, the disease may spread between people, as well.  Ebola is extremely infectious but not extremely contagious. As the Ebola virus continues to spread in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, health officials are concerned that myths and misinformation may continue to spread too. The virus has claimed more than 2,800 lives so far, as there are alarming reports of rise incidence.

This post is about an athlete who has been ‘sleeping rough’ and for whom there is growing Online support.  It is the story of top Sierra Leone sprinter, Jimmy Thoronka struggling in Britain since last summer's Commonwealth Games and claiming asylum 'because his family have died of Ebola'.  He was detained recently by Police who found him in an emaciated state.  Thoronka has since claimed asylum and is in Home Office accommodation.  An online petition appealing to the authorities to let Mr Thoronka remain in London has so far attracted more than 57,000 signatures

MailOnline, BBC, Guardian and host of other British papers report that Sierra Leone's top sprinter who went missing after Glasgow's Commonwealth Games last summer, is now applying for asylum in the UK after he was found sleeping rough on the streets of London. Jimmy Thoronka, 20, disappeared at the end of the Games and failed to return to the Ebola-hit west African country. Already orphaned by the war in Sierra Leone, he claims that his entire adopted family have been wiped out by the disease while he has been in the UK.

Thoronka, who said that he wanted to claim asylum in the UK so he could fulfill his dream of becoming a top athlete, now faces deportation. An online petition appealing to the authorities to let Mr Thoronka remain in the UK has so far attracted more than 57,000 signatures and well wishers have donated more than £24,000 to help the young athlete. Among the high profile names to support his plight are supermodel Lily Cole, and comedian Russell Brand.

The Guardian said it had interviewed Thoronka before he was detained for overstaying his visa. He claimed there were no flights to Sierra Leone immediately after the Games and his team-mates all scattered, some staying with relatives and friends until they could return home. He said his own bag -  containing his money and passport  - were stolen. His visa expired last September and after a brief stint with friends, he has been sleeping on the streets in parks and on buses ever since.  He told BBC correspondent that he wanted to claim asylum in the UK so he could fulfill his dream of becoming a top athlete.  Asylum is only granted to those who are in fear of persecution in their home country.

He said of Sierra Leone: 'Nobody persecute me or anything, my problem is I don't have a family there to stay with. The person who would help me has passed by Ebola. If I go back i will not make it and I will kill myself, because i cannot pursue my dream. I want to be the fastest sprinter in the world.'  When Thoronka, the country's number one 100m sprinter, left Sierra Leone for Glasgow, some Ebola cases had been confirmed in a few of the villages surrounding Freetown, but the epidemic had not yet taken hold of the capital. The runner said: 'I was hoping to win a medal for my country. But during the Games I got the terrible news that my uncle had died, probably from Ebola.  'I couldn't stop crying. After the games, he was left in the lurch - 'Some days I get no food at all. I wash in public toilets and sleep in the park,' he said.  'We have a cold season in Sierra Leone but it is not cold like England. Some days I don't think I'm going to make it and just feel like killing myself.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

11th Mar 2015.

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