Top Sierra Leone sprinter loses UK visa battle

07 Oct 2015 | Posted by Carl Thomas

An African athlete who overstayed his visa to compete in last year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow has been refused leave to remain in the UK.

Jimmy Thoronka, who represented Sierra Leone in the 100 metres, has been told he must return to his home country before making another application for a UK visa.

Sierra Leone’s top sprinter disappeared after competing in the 2014 Games when he discovered his family had been struck by the Ebola virus. He was later found living rough in London, but was offered a sports scholarship at the University of East London.

The Home Office rejected his application to remain in the UK, even though his lawyer presented an expert medical report showing that Thoronka was in a “chronic traumatised state” after eight members of his family were killed by Ebola.

Officials decided the sprinter could be counselled in Sierra Leone and said he had no established family life in the UK because he had only been here for just over a year. The runner told The Guardian that he was devastated by the Home Office’s decision.

He said: “What is going to happen to me if I am forced to return to Sierra Leone? There is no one to look after me and support me there and the training facilities are very bad. The president of the Athletics Association there said that many of the athletes are just training by themselves, on the tracks at schools which are not very good. I don’t think I will make it if I have to go back.”

The 20-year-old had been training with the London running club Heathside while waiting to hear the outcome of his appeal. Coach Mike Bense said Thoronka had the potential to become one of the world’s top sprinters and was one of the few who could run 100 metres in less than 11 seconds.