Whatever happend to? Matt Rahmati
CHAMPIONED by The Evening Star, Matt Rahmati's plight pulled the heartstrings of people across Suffolk. He hit headlines in 2005 when the Home Office ordered him to leave Britain and return to Afghanistan.
CHAMPIONED by The Evening Star, Matt Rahmati's plight pulled the heartstrings of people across Suffolk. He hit headlines in 2005 when the Home Office ordered him to leave Britain and return to Afghanistan. Today JAMES MARSTON catches up with him to find he's now the boss of an Ipswich garage.
NAEMATULLAH “Matt” Rahmati was just 16 when he fled the Taliban.
He arrived in England in January 2000 and was granted temporary permission to stay, where he learned English and worked as a mechanic in Ipswich. He also met and married Ipswich woman Tanya Barroso. Matt was busy building a life - but in 2005 his world fell apart.
Then 21, he was told by the Home Office it was safe to return to his home country and he was threatened with deportation.
His application for asylum was denied on the grounds he did not have an entry visa when he first entered the country. It was then he turned to The Evening Star for help.
In March he spoke out about his plight and by early April nearly 1,000 Star readers had signed petitions protesting about his departure. His powerful story prompted one of the biggest responses ever from the public in the paper's history.
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But on August 26 immigration officials and police swooped on Matt and Tanya's home, in Victoria Street, Ipswich, to take him into custody. He was taken to a detention centre in Manchester where he urged his friends to continue to pressure the government to let him stay.
During what looked certain to be his final hours in the country, the 21-year-old mechanic said: “I appreciate everything people have done for me but if they could keep up with it I'd really appreciate it.
“I do want to come back as soon as possible because it's my home town where I grew up.”
But Matt's story did have a happy ending. After a year of turmoil he was back in Ipswich in time for Chistmas. In December 2005, we reported on his good news as he flew into Heathrow
Speaking back then, he said: “I'm so happy I can't describe it. I've always thought one day I would get back home. Without that hope I don't know how I would have got through.
“I've always been worried about everything which could go wrong, but thinking that one day I'd be home has always been in my thoughts. I wouldn't give up.”
Today, Matt now 25, is busy getting on with his life.
He said: “It meant everything to me to get back to Britain. My life was here.”
He's worked his way up to become the manager of Elton Park Garage, in Hadleigh Road.
Matt said: “I am very happy. I am settled in Ipswich and I run the garage now. I'm always grateful for the public's support during that time.
“I have been given a great opportunity to live here. I enjoy my work. I have made my life here.”
At the end of this year, Matt is hoping to apply for permanent residency in the UK.
He said: “I have got a two-year visa at the moment. It would mean everything to me to become British.”
What do you think of asylum seekers coming to Suffolk?
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2000: Arrives in England aged 16, from Afghanistan after fleeing the Taliban. He is given
temporary permission to stay, learns English and gets a job as a mechanic in Ipswich.
2001: After hearing nothing about his plea to stay, he chases the authorities with the help of solicitors. For the next few years he is given a temporary reprieve.
Early 2005: The Home Office tells him it is safe to return to Afghanistan and that he must leave by March.
February 14 2005: Marries Tanya Barroso.
March 2005: The Evening Star reveals the story and nearly 1,000 people sign a petition to show support.
August 26 2005: Immigration officials and police swoop on Matt's home and fly him to Afghanistan.
September 2005: Denied entry to Dubai. He had hoped to travel from there to the British
Embassy, but was told he was too young and is forced to go to India instead.
October 2005: Gets a visa to travel from Afghanistan to New Delhi where he awaits an appointment at the British Embassy. He enjoys a two-week visit from wife Tanya and mother-in-law Karen Barroso.
November 2005: Granted a spouse's visa by the British Embassy.
December 2, 2005: Flight home is delayed when it is revealed he had not registered his presence in India on arrival and he is told he must stay and complete paperwork.
December 3, 2005: Arrives at Heathrow airport.
2006-2007: Worked his way up to become the manager of Elton Park Garage, in Hadleigh Road. Obtained a two-year visa.