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UK charities have praised Sir Mo Farah’s “bravery” after revealing he was brought into the UK illegally under the name of another child.
The athlete was commended for facing “unimaginable pain” in speaking out about his story while “shining a light” on global issues.
The four-time gold Olympic medal winner, who previously said he had come to London when he was eight to join his father, speaking barely any English, made the revelations in a new BBC documentary titled The Real Mo Farah.
The runner said his children had motivated him to be truthful about his past.
“We salute Sir Mo for his bravery in speaking out about his story,” said Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council.
“Like so many others he has faced unimaginable pain and by telling his story he is shining a light on global problems which require urgent and meaningful action.
“His candid account of the circumstances which brought him to the UK shows the world that behind every statistic there is a human story which needs to be heard.”
Mr Solomon continued: “It is a story which sends a powerful message that rather than unworkable schemes which treat people as human cargo, there is a desperate need for safe, humane and effective routes for people seeking asylum.
“There are thousands of children who, like Sir Mo, have had their lives torn apart by war and persecution, many of whom are then cruelly exploited by traffickers.
“We should respond with sympathy and not further cruelty – criminalising the victim is never the answer.
“Sir Mo has made an enormous contribution to UK life, just like thousands of others who arrive on our shores and build new lives and new connections in this country.”
It comes after the UK government has faced backlash in recent months for controversial immigration policies that would see asylum-seekers deported to Rwanda.
Sonya Sceats, chief executive at Freedom From Torture, said: “Wherever we come from, when faced with the lethal impact of war and persecution all of us would do whatever it takes to ensure our family and loved ones are safe.
“Sir Mo’s tragic story reveals the fear and shame that our punitive immigration system forces many trafficked people to live with.
“Survivors of human cruelty should be treated with compassion, not threatened with retribution or a one-way ticket to Rwanda.
“Sir Mo’s brave decision to tell his story should cause us all to reflect on the harrowing reasons why people risk everything to find safety and the urgent need for an asylum system that treats people fleeing war, torture and persecution with dignity and humanity.”
It is understood the Home Office will not be taking any action against Sir Mo and he will not be deprived of his citizenship.
The department’s guidance makes clear it assumes a child is not complicit in gaining citizenship by deception, stating: “If the person was a child at the time the fraud, false representation or concealment of material fact was perpetrated (that led to citizenship), the caseworker should assume that they were not complicit in any deception by their parent or guardian.”