Parents Called 'Racist' for Complaining About Migrant Posing as High School Boy
Man caught lying about his age to gain asylum, parents' concerns 'dismissed' by school
When parents complained to their children's school that a man was posing as a 15-year-old boy, they were "dismissed as racist" by officials and their complaints were ignored, according to reports.
The alleged schoolboy, Siavash, was a 6’1” Iranian migrant with thick stubble, a large Adam’s apple, and a hairline that some viewed as receding, who joined other students at Stoke High School in Ipswich (a county town of Suffolk, England).
Parents grew concerned after the "boy" began Face Timing their teenage daughters and "asking them where they lived."
One parent says they were told that the "bloke" was sitting on a bench in the playground "just looking" at young girls.
After raising the issue with school officials, parents say their concerns were “dismissed as racist,” according to the Daily Mail.
Suspicions were raised further after images emerged from a Facebook account that allegedly belonged to Siavash that showed selfies of a mustached man drinking beer who looked identical to the "boy" who was attending school.
It turns out, Siavash actually was an adult, and was removed from the school.
He had told the school he fled from Iran and came to the United Kingdom with his little brother, who authorities believe actually is 12 years old.
Siavash was seeking a free education while posing as a teenager.
According to the Dail Mail, Siavash was born in Iran and had been forced to flee the Middle Eastern theocracy in mysterious circumstances, managing to cross Europe, with only his younger brother for company.
Having arrived in the UK – it’s not clear how – the duo promptly claimed asylum, declaring themselves to be 15 and 12 years old respectively.
Around the same time, they appear to have come to the attention of a refugee charity, which helped to house them in Suffolk, where there is a small but well-established Iranian immigrant community.
Like any unaccompanied child refugees, the boys were informed that, should they remain in full-time education, they’d be looked after by the local authority until reaching the age of 25.
Should they gain sufficient qualifications, the taxpayer would even be required to foot the bill for them to attend university.
Siavash could speak only broken English, but by all accounts he threw himself into school life, turning up at the start of each day with smartly brushed hair and a spotless blazer, tie and V-neck sweater.
In class, he worked diligently and talked politely to teachers.
Unlike many a teenager, the bespectacled "youngster" even managed to tuck his shirt in.
Large numbers of the 668 girls and boys at Stoke High, an under-performing academy in a gritty neighborhood of Ipswich just south of the city center, came rapidly to the conclusion that the supposed new boy was not actually a boy at all, but very much a fully-grown man, throwing a spanner in the works of Siavash's plan.
At 6ft 1in, he stood head and shoulders over many classmates, while his chin was flecked with thick stubble.
He also boasted a protruding Adam’s apple and a hairline that, from a certain angle, was starting to recede.
In the cold light of day, many suspected he was nearer 30 than 20.
"As soon as he started at the school, we all thought he looked far too old," a girl in Siavash’s grade later recalled.
"You could see the shadow of his beard on his face.
"He was wearing glasses, but they did not look prescription.
"It was almost as if he had them to make himself look younger.
"Everyone was making jokes as we went into registration saying, “What is a man doing in our school?”’
According to playground gossip, Siavash even confided to one contemporary that he was a married father of two who had decided to pose as a teenager because his academic qualifications weren’t recognized in the UK.
The parent of a teenage pupil was told the Iranian had confessed to being in his mid-20s.
"My son asked him how old he was and he replied that he was aged 25 and married with two kids," she told the Daily Mail.
An image of Siavash in a Year 11 classroom appeared on Snapchat, a networking app popular with teenagers, accompanied by the caption ‘How is there a 30-year-old man in our maths class?’
Around the same time, parents began asking awkward questions, taking an understandably dim view of the potential presence of a grown man being educated alongside their children.
"So my son’s school now let’s [sic] in 30-year-old men," wrote a woman calling herself Hollie Dayinn on Facebook.
"That’s some huge security breach. Apparently, he sits on a bench at break times close to where a group of girls hang out, just looking."
Desmond Newby, a 51-year-old father of two Stoke High pupils, was one of several reported to have removed their children from the school.
"In one of the pictures I’ve seen of him, he has more of a beard than I do. I don’t want my kids there any longer until he is out."
A third parent observed: "It’s not a nice thought that this man is around children and sitting with them at lunch."
Eventually, the school passed on concerns about his age to the Home Office.
On November 2, the day Siavash was due to sit a mock maths exam, it emerged that both he and his younger brother had been pulled out of Stoke High pending a full investigation.
The case immediately began to make headlines, with parents and politicians quick to raise concerns that the safety of potentially impressionable children had been seriously compromised.
"He started FaceTiming my friend [using an online video link], sending her messages, asking how close she lived to the school," said one school student.
"She was a bit concerned because he seemed so old.
"He kept messaging her during the night, and in the morning he texted her saying, 'Hello, how are you?'
"She told the maths teacher and was taken to the safeguarding teacher who looked at the messages and said there was nothing sinister about them."
Concerned parents accused of 'racism'
Serious questions were also raised about the school’s handling of the case, amid claims that complaints about Siavash had been blithely dismissed by staff, who in some cases had claimed the objections were motivated by racism.
"I went in [to] complain but I was fobbed off. They are deluded and seem more worried about how the bloke might feel," said a father of two girls from Stoke High.
"I am not aware of this lad having done anything inappropriate, but it’s clearly wrong that he should be in a class with children."
At one point, parents began sharing links to a Facebook page belonging to a man with the same first name and surname as Siavash, and who also had a similar appearance.
The account claimed that he was a former architecture student from Islamic Azad University in Abadan, Iran, who had previously lived in the German city of Erfurt.
Pictures showed the page’s owner with a full beard and hairy chest, posing with customized cars at a motor-racing event and sipping beer on a European street.
However, before it could be established whether the profile did indeed belong to the young asylum seeker, it mysteriously vanished.
Whatever the truth about the Facebook page, the denouement of the investigation (Siavash was found to be an adult, though authorities accept that his supposedly 12-year-old brother is indeed a minor) proves that the wider concerns of pupils and parents at Stoke High were entirely justified.
The bizarre episode leaves the school, the Home Office, and other safeguarding authorities with serious questions to answer.
It also serves to highlight the seemingly routine abuse of laws which are designed to safeguard vulnerable refugees, but in reality provide a gaping loophole for fraudsters to exploit.
Britain’s system, under which around 3,000 unaccompanied youngsters – around 80 percent of whom are male – claim asylum each year, came under intense scrutiny in 2016 when a busload of alleged teenagers arrived in Croydon after being transferred to the UK from Calais.
By claiming to be children, the new arrivals were entitled not just to free education, but also to places in local authority children’s homes (in areas with high migrant populations such as Kent, up to half the places in such homes are taken by unaccompanied asylum seekers).
Yet critics have long pointed out that those rules also create an incentive for adult migrants to simply destroy ID papers and pose as vulnerable children.
Indeed, several of the young men who disembarked from the coaches in Croydon appeared to be square-jawed men in their 20s or 30s.
Assessments of physical appearance can include indicators such as height, build, facial hair and voice pitch.
When assessing demeanor, officials can take into account observations on the individual’s mannerisms, body posture, and eye contact.
Crucially, when officials are unsure, the principle of ‘the benefit of the doubt’ is applied to the asylum seeker.
And earlier this year, a watchdog report revealed some local authorities had raised concerns that the ‘benefit of the doubt’ policy was being applied ‘too readily.’
That much was certainly true when they decided Siavash was just 15 years old.
And plenty of parents will now be wondering just how many other British schoolchildren are sharing their classroom with grown adults.