“I want to live in Cork with my family - we are settled here and we are very happy,” said Hamza Khan, a first-year Computer Science student at University College Cork.
Hamza, his parents, older sister and three younger brothers arrived in Ireland in 2017, after his father fled persecution in Pakistan in 1984, and after anti-immigrant laws introduced in 2016 forced the family out of Saudi Arabia.
The Khan family turned to Ireland, applying for asylum in July 2017, and have since made Cork their home.
Hamza attended Coláiste Éamann Rís, formerly Deerpark CBS, before Hamza went on to achieve a scholarship to study at University College Cork; his three brothers are at the same secondary school, while sister Shazadi is studying at the Mayfield Training Centre.
Hamza, along with his brothers Zubair, Umair and Mutjuba, with their sister and parents Mubeen and Hina Mubeen, live in a Direct Provision Centre on the Kinsale Road.
However, the Khan family is now facing deportation later this week, having been refused international protection in this country.
On Sunday, December 15 last year, Hamza’s family received a letter from the tribunal informing them it had refused their appeal.
Last Friday, the Khan family received another letter informing them to be at the Garda National Immigration Bureau in Dublin this Thursday, January 16.
Hamza said he and his family are now facing deportation to the UK but that they are desperate to stay in Cork.
He admitted his family is facing into a “very stressful situation”.
“I want to live here in Cork with my family.
“I want to complete my four-year education at University College Cork and to be engaged in research in Artificial Intelligence, through which I would like to contribute to Irish society for what it has done for me,” he added.
“I worked very hard to achieve this scholarship.
“Third level education in the UK is very expensive and there is no way my family can afford it.
“Going to UK will ruin my life, kill my dreams and will end my career, and it would also have a negative impact on my brothers’ education and activities they are involved in,” said Hamza.
“My sister is studying hospitality and tourism in the Mayfield Training Centre and my three brothers are in school in Coláiste Éamann Rís.
“Zubair is in fifth year and holds the U17 player of the year award in cricket with Harlequinn’s Cricket Club.
“He dreams of playing for Ireland one day.
“My brother Umer is in transition year and Mutjuba is in second year,” said Hamza.
“Since 2017, I studied at Deerpark CBS (now Coláiste Éamann Rís) where I got my Leaving Cert, the Most Improved Student award 2018 and Student of the Year Award.
“I also received the principal’s special recognition award.
“I have contributed to my school and Cork by making speeches on multiculturalism to trainee teachers in UCC and also at Edmund Rice Trust events, where different Christian Brothers Schools from all over Munster attended,” he added.
“As an asylum seeker I was liable to pay international fees for third level education but I didn’t know that until my Leaving Cert year.
“After discovering this, I was very pessimistic as I have always been a very hard-working student.
“I discovered a scholarship scheme called Sanctuary Scholarships in UCC.
“After months of hard work for this, along with managing the Leaving Cert pressure, I was successfully awarded a place and a scholarship.
Almost 1,000 people have signed a petition to keep the Khan’s in Cork and Ireland.
The proposed deportation of the family has been described as “immoral” and “devastating” by Aaron Wolfe, principal of Coláiste Éamann Rís.
University College Cork has joined forces with Coláiste Éamann Rís in a campaign to stop the four Khan brothers and their family being deported this week.
Mr Wolfe said he is concerned that the move to deport the four brothers will have catastrophic consequences for their education and emotional wellbeing.
He said Hamza will lose his scholarship and the three younger brothers will be moved to an unfamiliar education system in the middle of their studies.
“The Khan brothers have been a huge addition to our school,” Mr Wolfe said.
“They have spoken at national events on the struggles of teenage asylum seekers and have helped to spread awareness of the plight of refugees.
“We are proud of the progress they have made since becoming a part of our school community and we are devastated to learn that their future with us is now in danger,” he added.
“Hamza’s progression to UCC is testament to this family’s love of learning – they are ambitious, capable individuals who wish to make a life for themselves here in Ireland, where they will become independent and contributing members of Irish society. They have become part of our school and wider community - Mutjuba even has a Cork accent."
In 1984, Mubeen and his wife Hina Mubeen left Pakistan to escape persecution and went to Saudi Arabia. Their five children were born in Saudi Arabia.
In 2016, the new king passed anti-immigrant laws and introduced taxes on each individual immigrant that would increase every year.
All four brothers had to drop out of school to work to pay their individual taxes.
However, Mubeen lost his job due to new rules favouring the employment of Saudi citizens.
Unable to pay their taxes and fearful of being sent back to Pakistan, the family fled to Europe. Now, they are in danger of being deported to the UK.
The campaign to keep the Khans in Cork is supported by UCC, and the trust body of Coláiste Éamann Rís Cork City, the Edmund Rice Schools Trust, that represents 96 schools nationwide.
The Sanctuary Working Group at UCC has appealed to Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan to stop the removal of Hamza Khan.