Jimmy Thoronka was Sierra Leone’s top sprinter, but after last summer’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, he went missing.
He said he was afraid to go home to a country struggling to cope with the Ebola virus. After sleeping rough and being arrested, he has applied for asylum in the UK. The 20-year-old athlete was arrested on Friday and now faces deportation.
An appeal by his supporters to raise money to help him rebuild his life achieved more than the target £20,000 just two days after it was set up.
Student Richard Dent, who lives in London, set up the appeal to help him “rebuild his life and career.
He said, “People from all around the world donated to Jimmy’s fund; people who are not involved in the UK debate on immigration”
Dent, who has never met Thoronka, told the BBC: “Obviously Jimmy broke his visa which wasn’t great. But I believe he did this because he had a genuine fear for his life whilst under incredible stress given the loss of his family to Ebola.
“In my opinion, this is not an issue of supporting deliberate illegal immigration, this is about being humanitarians.
The Cambridge University student said whether the UK decided to deport Thoronka or not, the funds would help him rebuild his life and career wherever he ends up.
Thoronka, who was his country’s top 100m runner, says Ebola has killed his immediate family in Sierra Leone and he could not make it alone there so stayed with friends in Leicester before going to London.
“Some days I get no food at all. I wash in public toilets and sleep in the park,” he told the Guardian.
The Met Police said he was arrested on Friday for immigration offences and is now with the UK Border Force.
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