The family of an ex-footballer were on Friday offered temporary residence permits for humanitarian reasons, after their deportation was ordered, Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said.

Former player Mohamed Kamara from Sierra Leone has been living in Cyprus since 2002 with his wife, when he was signed on to play with the Salamina football club.

They have since had three children, between the ages of three and 13, learned fluent Greek, and converted to Christianity.

In his statement, Nouris said the family will be given the temporary permit until July 2023, so their children can finish the school year.

“The precondition being that in the meantime the foreigner and his wife will apply to the Migration and Civil Registry Department to secure a residence permit and legalisation of their stay in the Republic,” Nouris added.

The ministry said the couple in question were given successive opportunities to legalise their stay, “which they not only did not take advantage of, but ignored,” making their stay in the country illegal.

Nouris added that he has been informed in detail about the case and seen all the documentation registered in the files of the individuals, but decided that for the good of the children, the family will be allowed to stay until the end of the school year.

Meanwhile, the eldest daughter of the family addressed a letter to President Nicos Anastasiades asking him to intervene to stop her family being extradited.

Fourteen year old Sebastiane is a student at the Verginas gymnasium in Larnaca and has two younger sisters, Maria Arygro and Diona Dionysia.

“If my family is extradited to Sierra Leone, it would be like losing my life. I would start a new life that would be a nightmare. I have a homeland, which is Cyprus,” she wrote.

All three children were born in Cyprus and they have all even been baptised in the Greek Orthodox church.

“My friends cry and tell me they don’t want me to leave, and my coach tells me he needs me on the team,” she told daily Politis after sending her letter. Sebastiane is a shotput athlete on the local Marathonas teen team.

On Wednesday, her teammates and friends from Marathonas and Aek Larnaca gathered at the Verginas lyceum sports centre to demonstrate their support for her and her family.

One of the organisers of the demonstration and trainer of the Aek shotput team Christos Amirotos said: “We are all united, we have one voice, we want the extradition order to be removed.”

The case was brought to the fore by former Akel MP and former Nea Salamina chairman Diofantos Chrysostomou on Wednesday.

“They don’t have any ties with Sierra Leone anymore. Their relatives died as a result of the civil war. Cyprus is their home.”

Since his arrival, Kamara had a residence permit, Chrysostomou said. However, the stories differ on what happened after that. A statement by the interior ministry said the family has been living in Cyprus illegally for nine years and had issues with the police.

“The ministry has informed him in writing six times that he must take the steps to legalise his stay or repatriate. He defiantly ignored the authorities.”

On a newsbite hosted by Politis, Chrysostomou remained flabbergasted at how the ministry maintained it had urged Kamara to legalise his status. He insisted Kamara had submitted all his paperwork, but nothing had been properly processed.

On February 25, 2021, the ministry informed Kamara’s lawyer it had approved a submission for a visitor visa, but the family had not proceeded to actually apply for it.

The final deportation letter sent on August 5, stipulated the family must leave by August 31.

“During this period, schools are closed, giving them time to move country, without interfering with the children’s education,” the ministry said.

“The ministry is not throwing a family of a former football player to the street but has given many opportunities to them to legalise their status. Nonetheless, they have ignored and taken advantage of the tolerance of the authorities.”

Chrysanthou said that two potential employers were willing to offer Kamara a job, which would also legalise his status on the island, but the letters have gone unheeded by the interior ministry.