Asy­lum seeker who found a new life on stage and play­ing cricket


Derby Telegraph - - NEWS -

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.

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