Mo Farah’s tragic story shines spotlight on UK's 'hostile' immigration policy
The harrowing revelations that Sir Mo Farah was trafficked to Britain as a young child has highlighted the real-life struggles refugees face and led to criticism of the current government's asylum policy.
In a BBC documentary, Farah reveals how he was brought to the UK illegally as a child by a woman he had never met and forced to work as a domestic servant.
Experts say Farah's revelations humanises the struggle migrants face in a country where immigration remains a fraught issue and the current government seeks to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.
In the documentary, Farah said he was given the name Mohamed Farah by those who illegally flew him over from Somalia. His real name is Hussein Abdi Kahin.
The long-distance runner had previously said he came to the UK with his parents as a refugee. But actually his father had died in the Somalian civil war, while his mother and brothers live in the breakaway state of Somaliland.
“The truth is I’m not who you think I am,” Farah says in the documentary. “Most people know me as Mo Farah, but it’s not my name or it’s not the reality.”
He was granted British citizenship under the name Mohamed Farah in 2020.
The government has the power to strip citizenship from people who have obtained it illegally. But the Home Office said it would take "no action whatsoever" against the British Olympic four-time gold medallist.
On social media, many are wondering what would happen if Farah arrived in the UK now, given the current government's immigration policies.
Farah's bravery praised
Farah said he is telling his story now to challenge public perceptions of trafficking and slavery.
"I had no idea there was so many people who are going through exactly the same thing that I did. It just shows how lucky I was," he says in the documentary.
Many praised Farah for speaking out about the issue and drew parallels with the plight of immigrants in the UK today.
“There are thousands of people in this country like Sir Mo – people who have made new lives here and make incredible contributions,” tweeted The UK Refugee Council.
“His bravery in telling his story gives hope to all who campaign for a fair and humane asylum system.”
Writer Amina tweeted: "Mo Farah breaking his story given the current climate around migrants, is such an impactful way of leveraging his voice. So many people don’t realise how hostile U.K. immigration systems truly are."
"So courageous of Mo Farah - Hussein Abdi Kahin - to share his story. Especially poignant given that Tories are locking children up in adult detention centres and threatening to deport human trafficking victims to Rwanda," tweeted Nadia Inha from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.
Nazir Afzal, a former chief crown prosecutor for north-west England, said: " I doubt I could be more proud of what Sir Mo Farah has achieved but then you hear he was trafficked as a child & forced to work. He would, of course, be prosecuted under this Govt, but let them try.
Journalist Peter Jukes started a tweet thread, encouraging people to list the names of people who would not be in the UK under "the draconian policy supported by ALL Conservative candidates."
Hostile environment for refugees
Several candidates currently vying to become the Tory Party's new leader after Boris Johnson's resignation have reaffirmed their support for the Rwanda relocation plan.
Nadhim Zahawi, one of the leadership candidates, praised the Olympian for telling his story. Zahawi, who himself fled Iraq with his family at 11, has defended the government’s Rwanda policy.
In 2012 Theresa May, the then Home Secretary, said Britain should be "a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants”.
Since then, critics say the government has become more extreme in introducing policies and legislation to make it difficult for people without leave to remain.
In 2017, the Windrush scandal hit the headlines after it emerged that hundreds of Commonwealth citizens were wrongly detained, deported and denied legal rights due to this hostile environment.
The government was forced to introduce a compensation scheme in 2019 for those affected.