A star high school basketball player, who was tipped for the NBA, was detained in Canada last week after it was discovered he was 29, not 17 as his school had thought.
Jonathan Nicola, a 6ft 9in refugee from South Sudan, entered Canada on a student visa, attending Catholic Central High School in Windsor, Ontario.
He became a star player on the high school basketball team, prior to his arrest by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) for contravening the Immigration Refugee Protection Act.
Nicola has since told officials that he wasn’t lying when he attended high school – he says he simply didn’t know his real age.
At a detention review, Nicola said that his mother kept telling him different ages:
I always keep asking what is the specific age that I was born, and she has told me that she could not remember.
Nicola said he was pursuing an education in Canada to support his family in South Sudan:
I am not a liar person. I am religious. I pray to God . . . If something bad happen to me here, I do not know what would happen to my mother back home because she is really sick. She has diabetes.
I did not come here to harm any people or do something bad.
My goal is to study and get the education, so I can go back home, I can help my mother, I can help all my rest of the family.
Nicola said he met a man called 'Coach Steyn' in South Sudan who helped him with his application to Canada:
I told him, no, I was not born in 1998. I told him that I am too young for 1998. I’m not in 1998. Then he told me, ‘No, you go back ask my mother, ask my mother how old am I.’ And my mother she do not even remember. She told me 1993, 1990.
So I went back and this guy he just do me the paper . . . he did the whole papers. He did everything.
Nicola's student visa and passport said he was born on 25 November 1998, but US authorities say other records show his date of birth as 1 November 1986.
HT Toronto Star
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