US & Canada

Over-age Canadian high school basketball player arrested

Picture of a Basketball Hoop Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Mr Nicola was given an athletic scholarship and played for his high school basketball team

A South Sudanese immigrant and prominent high school basketball player in Canada has been arrested after the revelation that his age may be closer to 29 and not 17, officials say.

Jonathan Nicola was issued a student visa to attend an Ontario school, where he was given an athletic scholarship.

The truth about his age came out after immigration details were passed on by the US to Canada, reports said.

Mr Nicola has admitted he was not 17, but said he was not a "liar person".

He arrived in Canada last November, with a permit to attend Catholic Central Secondary School in Windsor, the Canadian Press news agency said, quoting board documents.

The school has not commented on the case.

His passport and study-permit application say his date of birth is 25 November 1998, which means he would be 17 years old.

But new details emerged after Mr Nicola applied for a US visa in December to play with his team there, a Canadian government lawyer said, according to the report.

Details passed on from US officials showed that he had unsuccessfully applied for refugee status in 2007, giving his date of birth as 1 November 1986. That would make him 29 years old.

In April 2015, he applied for a US student visa, and stated he was born in 1998. But his request was rejected by US officials, who said he had lied about his age and that he was trying to immigrate to the United States.

Expulsion hearing

After his arrest, Mr Nicola reportedly told officials he did not know his exact age but admitted being closer to 30.

"I did not come here to harm any people or do something bad," he told Canadian immigration officials via video conference.

In an earlier interview with the Windsor Star, he said it took him six months to get the Canadian visa.

He will remain detained and is likely to face a hearing on whether he should be expelled from Canada, the Canadian Press says.

A local priest has started a campaign to raise money to secure his release, broadcaster CBC has reported.

Apparently the issue with his age is not the only doubt surrounding Mr Nicola, as there is also confusion about the spelling of his name - some reports have said it is Jonathon.

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