Jimmy Thoronka participated in the Commonwealth Games last year in Scotland. He was apparently afraid to go back home after the games due to the Ebola crisis and has been living rough in the English Capital since then.
Thoronka, 20, reportedly went missing in Glasgow after the event in July last year and has now finally been found. It seems the sprinter has been sleeping in parks and on buses in London and is in an emaciated condition.
According to The Guardian, Thoronka was arrested Friday for overstaying his visa. He is currently being held by police and apparently neither the Home Office nor Scotland Yard would comment on the matter.
He was interviewed by The Guardian prior to his arrest and told the reporter that while he was participating in the Commonwealth Games his uncle had passed away. The man’s death was most likely from Ebola and apparently his mother and his three adopted sisters also died. In fact Thoronka said the whole area where he normally lives in under quarantine.
Thoronka said that he could not cope alone in Sierra Leone and that due to Ebola, athletics is not an option in the country any longer.
“I can’t go back to Sierra Leone because my whole family has been wiped out and I can’t make it alone.”
“Nobody is doing athletics there now. Ebola has destroyed so much. But I can’t survive here either if I continue living like this. I don’t know what I am going to do.”
Almost 3,600 deaths have been reported in Sierra Leone from Ebola in the nine months since the outbreak hit across West Africa. Over 9,800 people have reportedly died since the initial outbreak began in December 2013.
The Guardian reports that Thoronka has now been released from police custody and is temporarily being housed in Home Office accommodation but fears are that he will be deported from the country.
Govt set to deport Jimmy Thoronka, sierra leone sprinter living on streets of london/. plse sign petition http://t.co/tRoqKxlKek
— Russell Brand (@rustyrockets) March 8, 2015
The BBC quotes a Home Office spokeswoman as saying that they cannot comment on individual cases, but that they offer assistance for people to return home “when they are not entitled to remain in the UK.”
Reportedly an online campaign was launched soon after the news broke by a Cambridge student, Richard Dent, to raise funds to assist Thoronka. The campaign has already managed to raise almost $13,500. Dent said he had never met Thoronka but was “very affected” by the man’s situation.
Prior to the Commonwealth Games, Thoronka recorded a best time of 10.58 seconds for the 100m sprint. He won several medals in African competitions and also received the Sports Writers of Sierra Leone’s best male athlete award in 2013.
It seems Thoronka was not alone in wishing to stay away from Africa due to the Ebola crisis. Apparently around 30 of the athletes from Sierra Leone tried to extend their visas last year to stay in the U.K.
[Image: Screengrab from YouTube video]