In a cramped apartment on the outskirts of Moscow, Lamin has little more than the clothes and the Bible he brought with him when he came to Russia on a temporary World Cup visa last summer.
The 23-year-old Gambian shares the two-bedroom flat with nine other people — the youngest a newborn baby girl, the daughter of a Congolese flatmate.
Like thousands of other Africans, Lamin came to Russia during the 2018 tournament on a “Fan ID” that allowed spectators to bypass the country’s usual visa requirements.
While most came purely to watch the football, others had plans to stay on and find work.
Some believed they could claim asylum in Russia or that the country would be a stepping-stone to life in Europe.
But eight months after the World Cup, their hopes have been dashed and the Russian interior ministry has said it is stepping up measures to deport all over-staying guests by the end of March.
The former management student was eventually helped by a Liberian immigrant who shared food and offered a space in the apartment.
But during a raid in February, police found the Liberian had no valid documents and he was deported.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do next, I’m totally scared,” said Lamin, who has been given temporary leave to stay until the middle of March.
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With the help of the Civic Assistance Committee, an organisation that works with refugees in Russia, he has put in an application for permanent asylum.
There is little hope, however, of it being granted. Official figures show that in 2017, Russia gave full refugee status to just 33 people.
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