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Grieving Zimbabwean relatives shocked by UK visa refusal

by Staff reporter
22 Jan 2015 at 06:32hrs | Views
The Zimbabwean relatives refused UK visas to attend the funeral of five-year-old Andrea Gada, who died after being hit by a car, have told of their deep pain and shock at the Home Office decision.

Andrea's grandparents, Stanley and Grace Bwanya, and aunt, Monalisa Faith Bwanya, said they would meet any requirements demanded of them as they begged for permission to attend, to say farewell and offer emotional support to the girl's 32-year-old mother, Charity.

Andrea died on 16 December after being struck while walking home from school with her father, Wellington, 38, and eight-year-old brother, Victor, in Eastbourne, East Sussex. Her funeral has been postponed and her parents say they are unable to contemplate it going ahead without the close relatives present.

Applications for three-month temporary visas were rejected because it was said the family posed the risk of absconding while in the UK, could not demonstrate a regular income and had not previously travelled out of Zimbabwe. Pressure is now growing on David Cameron to overturn the decision.

Speaking from the family home in Chitungwiza, 20 miles south of the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, Monalisa, a hairdresser, said: "We are begging for them to understand. Please let us be there so we can do what we have to do, and then we will come back [to Zimbabwe].

"Our mother cannot even talk right now because she is in such great pain, crying all the time. She is worrying about Charity all alone, with no one from her family with her at this terrible time.

"All we are asking is for them to give us just a little time to be there with her at the funeral. We can do anything they want us to do. We are ready to do that. We can report to a police station."

Asked whether the family would even be prepared to wear electronic tags during their stay, she replied: "Yes, anything. If they want to monitor us then it's OK. Even if they only give us three weeks, it is OK with us. Then we will come back."

Monalisa said it was not true that the family had not previously left Zimbabwe. They travelled to South Africa in 2014 for a family reunion with Andrea's parents, who had been granted asylum in the UK and are unable to return to Zimbabwe. It was during this brief visit that the grandparents met Andrea for the only time.

"We saw my niece just once, in August, and then in December she passed away. We are just praying for them to understand our situation," Monalisa said.

She said it was important to the family – who are Seventh Day Adventists - that they were present for the funeral. There were some special rituals they should perform, including cleansing rituals because of the sudden nature of Andrea's death.

Monalisa said she needed to accompany her parents, but also "to speak at the funeral on behalf of my sister, because she is too upset, she cannot even do that herself. We are very worried about her and we need to comfort her".

The refusal of the visa applications had come as a great shock to the family, she said. Their lives were now on hold as they prayed for a resolution. "Right now, we just don't know what to do," she said.

Wellington, who is studying finance and accountancy, and Charity, who is training to be a nurse, discovered that the visa applications had been rejected for a second time a day after Cameron pledged in the Commons that the Home Office would look carefully at the case.

The local Liberal Democrat MP, Stephen Lloyd, has offered to personally guarantee that the relatives will leave the UK when required. The local community has raised £5,000 to cover the family's travel costs.

Wellington said he believed the applications had been rejected because the family were "too poor, full stop". As street traders but both now not working, the grandparents were unable to supply details of bank accounts and income. The family hope to present a petition to No 10 and have a private meeting with the prime minister.

On Wednesday, the moderator of the Church of Scotland joined others who have sent letters in support of the Gada family to No 10 and the Home Office. The Rt Rev John Chalmers said it was a "cruel and heartless" decision.

"At a time of such intense grief, the presence of senior members of the family, bringing the sympathy of their community in Zimbabwe, would be without doubt the most significant source of comfort to the Gada family," he wrote in a letter to Cameron.

"I urge and appeal to you to direct the [Home Office] to grant the visitor visas, so that the Gada family may receive the comfort of their family's presence for the limited duration of their visit."

The bishop of Chichester, the Rt Rev Dr Martin Warner, said in a separate letter that the decision offended "at the most elementary level of human compassion".

David Hanson, the shadow immigration minister, said: "It's very disappointing that just hours after the prime minister promised to look at this case, the Home Office were sending out another rejection letter. The minister seems to be treating this as just another immigration case despite all parties calling for the government to find a humane and compassionate solution for a family facing terrible tragedy.

"The government need to fully explain the reason why this request can't be met, why the offer of guarantees and the community support already shown is being ignored, and the prime minister needs to live up to his word and examine this case personally."

Source - theguardian