April 27, 2016 / 12:17 AM / in 4 years

South Sudanese high schooler in Canada admits no teenager but says doesn't know age

TORONTO (Reuters) - A South Sudanese high-school student in Canada accused of lying about his age has admitted he is older than the teenager he claimed to be, but said he does not know his true age, according to transcripts from immigration authorities.

Jonathan John Elia Nicola, whose true age is put at 29, faces potential deportation. He said he wants to go back to South Sudan, according to transcripts released on Tuesday of an April 19 hearing before the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board.

Nicola was arrested this month after a fingerprint scan conducted for entrance to the United States found he once applied for a visa using the birth year of 1986, which the government says it determined to be his true birth year, according to the transcript

The immigration board on Tuesday ruled Nicola to be a flight risk at a hearing and ordered him to be detained until May 24 at a jail in Windsor, Ontario, which is near Detroit. Nicola has been in custody since April 15.

According to the transcripts, a government lawyer told the immigration board that Nicola admitted to be older than the 17 years he claimed after his arrest this month.

Nicola, a student and basketball player at Catholic Central High School in Windsor, turned down an interview request.

A spokesman for the local Catholic school board said it respects the immigration board’s decision and hopes “this sad story will conclude soon.”

Nicola told the board his mother said she does not remember his age.

Nicola said a man at what he called “this office” – apparently a government office in South Sudan – prepared paperwork that indicated him to be born in 1998 after confusion about his birth date.

Nicola apologized for the trouble the issue caused and said he has been having suicidal thoughts in detention and asked to go back to his country, saying, “If something bad happen to me here, I do not know what would happen to my mother back home.”

According to the transcript, Nicola said he was 16 when he came to Canada late last year on a student visa, and his passport showed him to be of that age.

South Sudan does not have an embassy in Canada. A representative at its embassy in Washington could not be immediately reached.

Editing by Leslie Adler

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