A talented “teenage” basketball player who arrived in Canada from the African state of South Sudan has had his dreams shattered after immigration authorities revealed he was actually a 30-year-old man.
Jonathan Nicola arrived in the country in November as part of a refugee resettlement programme called Canada Homestay.
Pete Cusumano, coach of the basketball team at Catholic Central High School in Windsor, Ontario, supported Nicola’s application, after the 6′ 9″ player was recommended to him by another Sudanese man, Deng D’Awol.
Mr Cusumano helped Mr Nicola move from South Sudan and took him in as a lodger, boasting that the supposed teenager could one day play in the NBA.
“I think this kid will have a chance at the NBA,” he said. “I have never said that about any kid from Windsor.”
Speaking to the local Windsor Star newspaper in January, Mr Nicola said: “I am playing basketball because otherwise, I am falling into things that my family doesn’t want me to do, the bad things.
“If I had the opportunity to go to the NBA I would definitely go.”
The Detroit Pistons, who play on the opposite side of the river to Windsor, even donated clothing and equipment for Mr Nicola.
However, on Wednesday the Canadian Border Services Agency announced Mr Nicola had been arrested for violating the country’s Immigration Refugee Protection Act because it believes he is 30 years old, not 17.
He was apparently detained after he applied for a U.S visitor’s visa but was denied. His passport and application for a Canadian student visa indicated he was born on 25 November 1998, but U.S. fingerprint records showed he had previously applied to enter the country using 1 November 1986 as his birth date.
The Immigration and Refugee Board will now hold a hearing on whether he is “inadmissible to Canada on grounds of misrepresentation.”
The board members ruled: “Mr. Nicola is detained on the grounds that he presents a flight risk, as he is unlikely to appear for an upcoming admissibility hearing.”