AN online petition has been set up to urge Home Secretary Amber Rudd to grant asylum to a survivor of child trafficking and modern slavery who has settled in the North.

As a homeless child in Vietnam, 'Stephen' was picked up by criminals and trafficked to the UK where he was forced to work in a cannabis farm.

Three years ago he was rescued by police and social services and fostered by Shildon vicar Rev David Tomlinson and his wife Davina.

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The 19-year-old has since built a new life for himself in County Durham but was devastated to learn last month that his application for Asylum and Humanitarian Protection, on the grounds that as a converted Christian he would be persecuted if sent back to Vietnam, had been refused.

MP Helen Goodman and the Bishop of Durham Paul Butler have backed his appeal, which will be heard on February 4 or 5.

  • An online 'allow Shildon's Stephen to stay' petition, set up at you.38degrees.org.uk, was signed by almost 500 people on its first day.