Asylum seeker who found a new life on stage and playing cricket
SYED TRAVELLED EIGHT MONTHS ACROSS ASIA AND EUROPE
Syed Najibi is part ofa theatre group, made up of refugees, which is coming to Derby Theatre in February. year foundation course in electrical installation.
After that, through a friend, he discovered Ashbourne-based Phosphoros theatre group. Syed joined in 2016, not long after the group had formed. He joined to socialise and improve his English.
He is now touring the UK with the award-winning group, which is made up of four former unaccompanied child refugees and asylum seekers who have all found a new place to call home in Britain. They had fled from Eritrea, Albania and Afghanistan.
The play Phosphoros is currently performing is called Pizza Shop Heroes and it is based around the actors’ reallife experiences. That is from finding their feet in the UK, to their journeys here and the reality of the “hostile” asylum seeker application process.
Syed is here under Article Eight of the Human Rights Act 1998, which grants him discretionary leave to remain.
But his fight to gain refugee status – which would give him indefinite right to remain as well as the right to work in the UK – has been the subject of an ongoing five-year battle. He said of his experience: “It’s like you’re stuck in limbo, you can’t think about or plan your future whilst waiting on the decision.”
Syed has his mind set on university and has applied to four London-based universities to do an engineering degree starting next year. He has already had one offer from Royal Holloway University and hopes to be accepted on to a scholarship. He said: “I’m always trying to take opportunities, I have hope for the future to go even further in life.”
Pizza Shop Heroes is set in the preWHEN Syed in Pizza Shop Heroes Syed playing for Ashbourne Cricket Club
cinct of a pizza shop, as according to Liam Duffy, production manager for the company, “some of the actors have previously worked in the fast food industry.”
Liam said: “The play is a testimony to their journeys from home, a reflection on their lives. It’s their project. They’re the stars. We’re just telling their stories.”
Writer and director Dawn Harrison and her partner Liam Duffy, who both live in Ashbourne, invited the actors over to their home to rehearse and to spend time together.
It’s through Liam, who is Ashbourne Cricket Club’s first team captain, that Syed began playing for the team as a seam bowler and mid-order batsmen.
The club finished last season in the top four and was promoted.
Syed added: “I’ve got a love for cricket. Hopefully I’ll be able to play again this year. They’re all nice people. I like them.”
Liam, who had three cast members around at his and Dawn’s home for Christmas, said: “We had three out of four cast members around for Christmas, one lad had basic English when he arrived but was telling political stories around the dinner table. They’re four very impressive, talented men. Syed’s English has massively improved since being part of the theatre.”
The “humorous” show, which Syed also called “an educational production”, is coming to Derby Theatre on Saturday, February 2. Due to its popularity, the theatre company has added two additional shows in Derby on the same day. The play, which also features Liam’s daughter, Kate Duffy, is set to be performed in Malta in February, along with other venues across the UK.