A teenager who won his fight to remain in Bristol says he has been left with an overwhelming sense of relief and gratitude to the thousands who supported him.
At a time when his peers were focusing on their A-levels, Stiven Bregu stood to lose everything he had worked for and loved when the Home Office threatened to deport him back to the country from which he was trafficked in 2015.
The petition calling for his deportation to be stopped gained the support of more than 91,000, including Bristol mayor Marvin Rees, who has described the teenager’s journey as a “remarkable story of determination and success against the odds”.
A week after winning his right to remain, Stiven is now nervously awaiting the results of his A-level exams – which were completed under the most stressful of conditions – but he says the biggest battle is now behind him.
“I want to say thanks to everyone who has supported me and been there for me. Now, it’s just looking to try and give back to Bristol.”
Stiven was dumped near Keynsham by traffickers at the age of 14 in a place where he had no family, knew no one and could barely speak the language.
Four years later, he is described by teachers as an “outstanding” student and was accepted onto the City Leadership Programme, established by the mayor to invest in high-ability, high-aspiration students from disadvantaged backgrounds, after achieving outstanding GCSE results.
Opening up about the turmoil he went through when the Home Office denied his right to remain in the UK, Stiven says: “I was just anxious and insecure, there was a lot of uncertainty and a lot of worrying.
“There was this stress just in the background of my head all the time. I couldn’t really focus on A-levels with all this going on. I’ll see how exams have gone, I’m really not sure.
“Deportation would have just meant losing everyone and everything I have worked for, and losing the opportunity to give back to Bristol.
“I’ve had a few hearings before but this one was different, I was pretty nervous on the day, but I calmed myself down and said whatever happens happens.”
It was his head of year Rob Shaw who launched the petition in June that gained such overwhelming support, but Stiven admits the decision to mount a public appeal didn’t come easy and he didn’t expect the huge outpouring of support he received.
“I was a bit unsure about doing it because no one really knew about my past, except for close friends,” he tells Bristol24/7.
“But now a lot of people have come and asked me about it. It’s a bit strange knowing that people know me now, I’ve had a few members of the public speak to me.
“A lot of people have spoken to me from my college and said ‘how is this possible?’. Having to see someone you know go through this makes them realise how it actually works.”
Welcoming the “brilliant” news of Stiven’s victory, Marvin Rees has said he hopes the case leads to “broader reform of the asylum system so that nobody else has to experience the trauma that Stiven has gone through”.
For Stiven, the main focus now will be on the apprenticeship he is due to start in September.
“Having had the uncertainty I have, I’ve not been able to think long-term that much, so after I start the job I will think a bit more,” he says.
“For now, it’s just start my apprenticeship and get myself together. I want to get the best out of the apprenticeship.”