Thousands support Norwich family's visa fight
By Keith Morris
2010: Thousands of people are rushing to the support of a Norwich
Christian family who are facing deportation back to Tanzania
after a post-study visa expired.
After nine years in the city, social worker and church leader Scholastica Mokake, 45, and her children Gabriel Mokake, 18, and Severin Mokake, 13 (pictured right), could be deported to Tanzania in the next few weeks.
An online Facebook campaign to support the family has already attracted more than 4,500 members and an online petition has over 3,000 signatories.
The UK Border Agency said Mrs Mokake's application for a post-study visa to stay in the city had been refused because she had failed to provide a certificate proving her academic qualifications.
But Mrs Mokake said she could not understand why she is facing deportation as she had reapplied for a visa and could confirm her qualification after she picks up her certificate of graduation in philosophy from the University of East Anglia on July 13.
She is also helping to support scores of refugees from Africa in Norwich through the Rivers of Life church and her work as a social worker with the Gateway programme.
The church started meeting in November 2009 in St Augustine’s church hall in Norwich and the now 100-strong congregation meets most Sundays at City Gates Centre in Cowgate from 2-5pm. It is a vital lifeline for many of the African families and helps them to learn English.
Scholastica is working through the Gateway programme to help the other members learn English, including through interpreting the services into English, in the hope that this will help them get jobs.
“Several are employed as care workers or cleaners,” said Scholastica. “Some are university graduates, but language is still a barrier at the moment.”
Rev Nicholas Vesey, vicar of St Luke’s, said: “I am amazed that Scholastica is facing deportation as she almost single-handedly is supporting over 100 people and families to settle in the UK in the best way that they can, including helping setting up the now thriving Rivers of Life church.
“It is an extraordinary effort and she is making a huge contribution to our community.”
Gabriel is in the Hewett School sixth form and friends and teachers there organised a concert to raise support and awareness of the family’s plight on June 25 at the school. A talented singer, Gabriel sang at the concert and has recently beaten thousands of applicants to secure places at two of the world’s top drama schools. If the family is deported he will lose those places.
Scholastica said: “My other son is at Sprowston High School and is settled there. He was just three years old and Gabriel was just nine when we came to this country so they have grown up in Norwich.”
“I am proud to be a mother of such talented children, what has happened tonight at the concert moved my heart and I believe, if all these people are for us, no immigration law can be against us. Thank you very much for all the support, love and kindness and receive our sincere gratitude.
“I am taking this opportunity to invite all of you to the congregation ceremony at the University of East Anglia on 13 July at 4.30pm, so that we can all continue to celebrate my graduation and provide the certificate that the authorities want.”
A UK Border Agency spokesman said: “The UK Border Agency makes it clear to applicants for post-study visas that they must provide a certificate proving their academic qualifications as well as evidence that they are able to support themselves financially. Ms Mokake failed to do this, which is why her application has been refused.
“Ms Mokake is welcome to reapply with the correct documentation. She would not face removal from the UK while an application is outstanding.
“All visa applications are considered on their merits and in accordance with the immigration rules, which are firm but fair and apply to everyone.”
On June 23, a Court of Appeal decision relaxed the financial qualifications for the post-study work migrant scheme.