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A student who moved to the UK after being abandoned as a baby in Zimbabwe could lose his place at Oxford University amid fears he will be deported.
Brian White, from Wolverhampton, was brought up in an orphanage in Zimbabwe until he was six-years-old.
He was then adopted by his parents – one of whom is a British citizen – and spent several years with them in Botswana before the family moved to the UK when Mr White was 15.
But he was not granted indefinite leave to remain by the Home Office, meaning he could be deported back to his country of birth.
Mr White, now 20, got four A*s at A level and was due to start at Oxford in 2016 but refused entry after he was reportedly told that his permission to remain in the UK had expired.
And, although the university kept his place open for a year, he is at risk of losing the offer if he cannot attend in 2017.
Speaking to the Express and Star newspaper, Mr White said: “Everything is up in the air after things started to go very wrong, very quickly.
“I try to concentrate on other things because it is too stressful to think about what might happen if I am not allowed to stay here.”
Lawyers representing Mr White believe he is eligible for indefinite leave to remain, which means there would be no limit on how long he can stay in the UK, and say it is a mystery he has not already acquired it.
Immigration expert Louis MacWilliam, of London law firm Bindmans LLP, said: “On reviewing his papers it seems he should have been granted indefinite leave to enter at first instance and it is not clear why this did not happen.”
A petition supporting his bid to attend Oxford to study chemistry has been backed by more than 80,000 people – including celebrities Philip Pullman and Caitlin Moran.
The petition page, set up by friend Luke Wilcox, says: “My friend Brian White moved to the UK aged 15 with his adoptive family after his British father decided to move back home. He has overcome so much adversity but now faces the risk of being returned to Zimbabwe instead of being allowed to take up his place at Oxford University.
“I have had the personal pleasure of knowing Brian since the start of 2013, having met him at school and quickly developing a close friendship with him. He is possibly the hardest working person I have ever met, but it is his enthusiasm to help those around him that I am inspired by each and every day.
“If Brian is not granted indefinite leave to remain, the United Kingdom would not only be losing a potentially valuable future worker, it would also be losing a fantastic person who is just as much a part of British culture and society as you and I.”
The hashtag #getbriantooxford has started trending on Twitter as support for the student grows.
Pullman tweeted: “Home office: Help Brian White remain in the UK to take his place at Oxford University!”
And Moran, wrote: “18-year-old Wolverhampton Maths genius about to be deported because of a paperwork error ffs.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “We understand the urgency of Mr White’s case and have contacted him to reassure him that we are looking to resolve his application as soon as possible.”
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