Tayside and Central Scotland

Plea to home secretary over Gamu deportation

Gamu Nhengu
Image caption Gamu is a former pupil of Alva Academy

The home secretary has been urged to take a "personal interest" in the case of X Factor singer Gamu Nhengu, who faces being sent back to Zimbabwe.

The 18-year-old has been told she must return to her homeland after her mother Nokuthula Ngazana's visa application was turned down.

Scotland's Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop has expressed her concerns in a letter to Home Secretary Theresa May.

She has asked for all options to be fully explored.

X Factor judge Simon Cowell has put his weight behind the fight to allow the family to stay at their home in Tillcoultry, Clackmannanshire, where they have lived for eight years and where Gamu attended Alva Academy.

He said his lawyers had been drafted in to help the family's lawyers because he "really feels for Gamu's situation".

Ms Ngazana was permitted to stay in the UK while she studied at university, with Gamu allowed to remain in the country as her dependant.

But Ms Ngazana's application was turned down, with the UK Border Agency saying it did not "meet all of the conditions for approval".

Politicians who represent Tillicoultry have already voiced fears about the situation facing the teenager and have demanded further answers from immigration officials.

In her letter to the home secretary, Ms Hyslop wrote of the support shown to Gamu by her local community, and said the teenager had the potential to be a "great asset" to Scotland's cultural community.

She wrote: "As the minister within the Scottish government with responsibility for culture and migration issues, I have been concerned at the developments in recent days with regard to the family's application for a visa to remain in the United Kingdom.

"Since 2008, Ms Ngazana has been working in Scotland on a Fresh Talent visa, a home office scheme which the Scottish government has been keen to promote as a means of attracting and retaining individuals with valuable skills.

"As such, she has supported her family and contributed economically.

"It is clear that both she and her children have made a life for themselves in this country, and the strength of feeling in their local community in Clackmannanshire at the decision to refuse their visa application has been clearly demonstrated this week.

"As you will also no doubt be aware, Ms Ngazana's daughter, Gamu Nhengu, has been participating in the X Factor television show. Gamu has demonstrated that she is a hugely talented singer, and potentially a great asset to Scotland's cultural community.

"I would strongly urge you to take a personal interest in the family's circumstances, to ensure that all relevant factors are properly and fully considered, so that any options which would allow them to stay in Scotland are fully explored."

Immigration tribunal

Ms Hyslop said she was approached about the issue by her SNP colleague, Ochil MSP Keith Brown, on behalf of Ms Ngazana and her family.

Mr Brown, who said he has known Gamu for a number of years, previously described the teenager as "the kind of hard-working talent we should have in Scotland".

Ms Ngazana's visa extension was turned down on the grounds there was an administrative error in the application.

The family's solicitors said the error was due to Ms Ngazana giving the wrong bank details, so the fee for the application could not be taken.

The application was judged "out of time" as a result, but the lawyers said it was lodged in time.

Frances Farrell, the lawyer representing Gamu and her family, has said she will appeal to an immigration tribunal against plans to deport them.

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