Actor Colin Firth, together with clergy and parishioners from several churches, the SVP and community groups, have joined forces to save a seriously-ill woman from deportation and certain death. Rosaline Akhalu, 48, arrived in the UK in 2003 on a student visa, to study for a Masters Degree at Leeds University. She unexpectedly developed end stage renal failure in 2005 and was put on on dialysis until she received a kidney transplant in July 2009. She now has to take immunosuppressant drugs, which are very costly and unavailable in much of Nigeria. Without them she will die. Initially the Home Office refused her leave to stay, but on consideration of the medical evidence, two judges overturned the decision and granted her permission to remain in the UK. In an unexpected development the Home Office has now appealed this decision. Her case is going to be heard this Thursday, 18 July, in the High Court.
Rose is a very active member of her parish, St Augustine’s Catholic church. She runs a weekly prayer group, sings in the choir and helps with a tea club for pensioners. Her parish priest Fr Jonathan Hart said: "Rose is a well respected member of the parish community of St Augustine's. She does a great deal of work in the parish and has the support of the parish members."
Many other churches in Leeds have also rallied to her support. Rose is prayed for at the Chapeltown and Harehills Churches Together groups in Leeds and at the local Pentecostal Church, the New Testament Church of God.
The Anglican Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, John Packer said: “My prayers are with Rose who faces death from her illness if she is forced to return to Nigeria," he said. "I pray that the court will affirm her right to remain.”
Tessa Gregory, Rose’s lawyer said: “In truth, we should not be having to go through another appeal and Rose should have been left to get on with her life. Rose is an upstanding and deeply loved member of her local community whose health and wellbeing has been seriously compromised by the cruel and senseless determination of the UK Border Agency to pursue her through the courts – in spite of two judges finding in her favour and in spite of the unnecessary cost to the public purse which far outweighs the cost of her treatment.”
Campaigners will be coming to London in a 49-seater coach and intend to pack the public gallery at Thursday's hearing which takes place at 2pm in Field House, Immigration and Asylum Tribunal (Upper Tier) Hearing Centre.
Rose's friend Bernard Thurlow, a retired school counsellor and member of the St Vincent de Paul Society based at St Augustine’s, has approached the Society seeking prayers from members across Leeds and London. For parishioners who cannot attend the court hearing, St Augustine’s church will be open for the day on 18 July for prayers. Parishioners travelling to London intend to hold a candle-lit vigil outside the court. Bernard said: “We will be quiet and dignified. We will be there to bear witness. She is our friend. She has given us all so much. How could we just stand by and watch them do this to her?”
Colin Firth broke off from filming with Woody Allen in France to send a message of support to the campaign, saying: “I need hardly add my voice to the wholehearted love and support, surrounding Rose in her community and among her friends," said Firth. "We all hope that the good sense and humanity displayed so far by the courts will now prevail and that her life will be saved.”
Rose has been subjected to a very stressful four years since she became ill. The Home Office has locked her up twice — for 26 days in March 2012 in Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre and 16 days in May that year when she was detained in Yarl’s Wood and Colnbrook Detention Centre in Middlesex. A harrowing account of her degrading experience at the hands of commercial contractors Reliance (the company that replaced G4S as UK Border Agency escort contractors) can be read here: www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/esme-madill/roseline’s-journey-kidney-transplant-patient-meets-uk-border-agency-contracto
To see a short film about her visit: www.unheardvoices.org.uk/dig-my-own-grave-saving-lives-or-protecting-borders-video/
To sign a petition on support of Rose, please go to: www.gopetition.co.uk/petitions/stop-the-deportation-of-transplant-patient-roseline-ak.html
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