Indian Covid hero honoured by Queen faces deportation

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London, Feb 12

An Indian who was honoured by Queen Elizabeth II for supporting 50 families with free food during the Covid-19 pandemic, faces deportation to India after losing an immigration appeal in the UK.

Vimal Pandya, 42, had come from India in 2011 on a study visa but his college's right to sponsor foreign students was revoked by the UK Home Office three years later, the Daily Mail reported.

Evers since then, Pandya, who lives in Rotherhithe, south London, has spent the last nine years fighting to remain in the UK.

As a local shopkeeper, Pandya had supported at least 50 vulnerable families with free food deliveries during Covid, which earned him a letter of thanks from the Queen's personal representative in London.

But now he has just a matter of weeks left before he is forced to fly back to India, after a judge said that Pandya has been working in the UK "illegally for many years".

"I can't sleep at night because of this endless torture and misery. They can deport me at any time and send me back home - it's really scary," Pandya had told Daily Mail last year.

According to the report, Pandya has a maximum of 28 days from the date of the verdict, which was given on January 24, to decide whether he wishes to challenge the judge's decision, after which he will be at risk of removal by the Home Office.

Local community members as well as people from across the UK have come out strongly in support of Pandya, with hundreds attending demonstrations to support him.

An online petition to reinstate his visa has gained more than 1,75,000 signatures.

Originally a stockbroker, Pandya had enrolled in a management course with a college in the UK in 2011, but after paying the fees, it went out of business.

The Home Office had then asked Pandya to find a higher education institute to sponsor his student visa within 60 days or return to India.

He successfully found another college willing to do so, but after a return trip to India in 2014, the UK Border Force agents informed him that this college had lost its right to sponsorship.

Neither the college nor the Home Office had informed Vimal of this, a Change.org petition in support of Pandya read.

"I have worked very hard to survive in this world. Altogether I have spent 42,000 Pound on legal fees. Even criminals don't have to spend that much," he told The Mail.

Pandya had tried to challenge the deportation notice, arguing it breached his rights to a private life, but it was rejected by the Home Office.

He appealed the verdict at a tribunal hearing in Hatton Cross, south-west London, in January, but it was rejected by Judge Adrian Seelhoff.

"Considering all the factors in this case in the round and despite the Appellant's impressive achievements, I am not satisfied that they outweigh the public interest in immigration control when viewed in the context of a full and informed assessment of all the facts of the case. As a consequence I dismiss the appeal," Judge Seelhoff said.

--IANS

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