A GROUP of cricketers from Vale of Leven Cricket Club have appealed to the First Minister for help in trying to save one of their valued members from deportation.

The Alexandria-based team refused to stand back when one of their longstanding teammates was told he would be deported, having lived in Scotland for 13 years.

Mirwais Ahmadzai has spent almost half of his life in this country, arriving alone at the age of 16 having fled war and persecution at the hands of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and at first stayed in Alexandria before moving to Dumbarton.

He now lives in Yoker and is fighting to stay in the country he considers his home after receiving notice from the Home Office that he would be deported in two months, at the end of October.

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Mirwais, 28, said: “The immigration put me on hold for 13 years, and after that they try to send me back. I explained that I grew up here, I know about the law, the culture, life in Scotland.

“I know nothing about living in Afghanistan. I was a child when I left, I grew up in a village. I don’t know anything else about how to survive there, and I have no family left so I don’t know where I could go.

“If they send me back, my language is now mixed up with English, and I’ve been living in the West for so long that I will be targeted. It is a huge risk.

“They have said ‘You’re an adult now, go back home. It’s safe’. Afghanistan is still at war, it isn’t safe to be there for anyone, never mind someone who has lived in the West for almost half his life.”

Mirwais spent more than a month living in a jungle after leaving his village in the Logar province of the country, around 35km from the capital Kabul.

Mirwais explained: “I don’t like to think about the journey, it was very hard. We went on foot, lived in the jungle for about a month-and-a-half, and ended up in the back of a lorry. I was so happy when I arrived, and I stayed with a Scottish family for a long time.

“I played cricket so I wanted to try and play here. I got put in touch with the Vale of Leven and have been playing with them since I arrived.

“In 2008, I went to the Red Cross to research my family back home but they found out they had moved, or been killed, in the village I was from. Our house was bombed and destroyed. My friends here, and the family I was staying with when I moved, they are like my family now.

“I had lots of problems with depression but I have been trying my best to do something. I went to college, to do ESL (English as a second language) courses. I tried to do a mechanical engineering study but I wasn’t able to as I had a documents problem. I didn’t have documents so I couldn’t study at uni.”

When Mirwais received a letter from the Home Office telling him he would be deported, his cricket teammates were distraught. Hugh Hutchinson, the club’s president, has now written to Nicola Sturgeon, as well as local MSPs Jackie Baillie of Labour and the SNP’s Martin Doherty-Hughes asking for support.

He said: “We called a meeting and decided we had to do something. We’ve never been involved in anything like this, something so political, but we couldn’t do nothing.

“Social work contacted me 13 years ago, saying they had a couple of lads seeking asylum in Scotland and asked if we could help out as they played cricket.

“We knew he had issues trying to stay in the country, but we thought he would be fine, we never thought he was going to have to leave. When we found out a few weeks ago he was leaving on October 20, we couldn’t let it lie.”

Hutchinson organised an emergency general meeting, where club members decided to write to politicians and approach the media about Mirwais’ plight.

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He added: “Cricket is a great vehicle to bring people together.

“Mirwais has been here for his whole adult life, he’s become influenced from living in the West. That puts him at risk [back in Afghanistan].”