A 29-year-old man from South Sudan was arrested by Canadian border officials after posing as a high school student in Windsor, Ont.
The Canadian Border Services Agency confirmed to Global News that Jonathan Nicola was arrested by CBSA officers for allegedly violating the Immigration Refugee Protection Act.
The Windsor Star reports Nicola arrived in Canada, on a student visa, in November 2015 after fleeing the ongoing civil war in South Sudan. He is believed to be 29 years old and had been attending Catholic Central High School as a 17-year-old student where he also played for the school’s basketball team.
The CBSA says officials noticed the age discrepancy when Nicola applied for a permit to study abroad with a birthday listed as Nov. 25, 1998. When he applied for a visitor visa to the U.S., his fingerprints matched a previous application with a birthday listed as Nov. 1, 1986.
According to a website for the school’s basketball team, a Jonathan Nicola was listed as a junior, 6’9” center.
Windsor Hoops, a local “basketball resource promoting news and players,” posted a video to social media that appears to show Nicola running drills in a school gym, where is he listed as a Grade 11 student.
Stephen Fields, communications coordinator with The Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, declined to provide any details specifically related to Nicola’s case.
“Any time that we have a student matter that is before the authorities we simply don’t comment on those situations,” Fields told Global News Thursday.
While not commenting specifically on the case, Fields said there are protocols in place relating to international students.
“Generally speaking, whenever we have an international student present at our schools we have a system of checks and balances in place that we make sure they have all the proper documentation they need before they are enrolled,” he said. “That would include things like valid passport, a student Visa, a matching passport photo, and of course academic transcripts depending on where they are coming from.”
“Obviously the report has raised some concerns but whenever any of these things come up we deal with them as best as we can.”
Ryan Blevins, a journalism student at St. Clair College, wrote a story about Nicola for his school’s website and was taken aback by the news.
“It wasn’t anything we could predict, nobody saw this coming.”
Blevins said he spoke with Nicola for an article on his arrival from South Sudan and said he was “a really nice, a really calm guy.”
“He loves basketball and was very adept, very knowledgeable about the game of basketball,” Blevins said.
Nicola has already had one detention review hearing with the Immigration and Refugee Board, and will be back in front of the board on April 26.