Deported Scunthorpe rugby player Rewiti Vaimoso plays final game

Rewiti Vaimoso
Image caption Vaimoso is due to be deported back to New Zealand on 19 January

A Scunthorpe rugby star has played his final game for the club before he is deported back to New Zealand despite living in the town for nearly 10 years.

Rewiti Vaimoso moved to the town in September 2005 with his girlfriend, who has Scottish relatives, but lost his right to stay when they split up.

The Home Office said the player, known as Woody, did not merit a grant of "leave outside the rules".

His club described the decision as "insensitive".

Vaimoso is due to leave the country on 19 January.

He arrived in the UK on his partner's visa. After the couple's relationship ended a year ago, he applied for his own visa but was turned down.

Under the immigration rules, only those who have been in the UK legally for 10 consecutive years can apply to settle in Britain.

'Real emotional day'

Vaimoso, who worked for Tata Steel but was released by his employer in November, believed he was "an easy target" and said the last couple of months had been "heart-breaking".

"I've put nine and a half years in this town," he said.

"Rules are rules and the problem is they're not very flexible towards certain situations or have any compassion. I'm just going to have to move on.

"I've kind of warmed up to the feeling that I'm going."

Scunthorpe Rugby Club's Chairman Malcolm Yates said the team was "truly devastated" by his deportation.

"He's worked at the steelworks and paid his taxes. For a guy who has done so much in the community - he's worked in schools - everything about the man is just wonderful.

"For a government to be insensitive as this is just beyond belief."

Head coach Tim Robinson said it was "a real emotional day".

Scunthorpe MP Nic Dakin said: "It seems barmy to me that we're looking at sending somebody back who's integrated into our community, who's contributed enormously."

In a statement, the Home Office said the player's reasons for wanting to stay "were not exceptionally compelling or compassionate and do not merit a grant of 'leave outside the rules'".

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