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MP calls for sudden deportation of Swiss Cottage man’s wife to be halted

Wife due to be deported away from her seriously unwell husband

29 July, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

Mark Leonardi at his Swiss Cottage home

A SERIOUSLY unwell man from Swiss Cottage faces being separated from his wife under a Home Office visa rule.

Mark Leonardi, 62, who has renal failure and is epileptic, has been told his 52-year-old wife, Ngamngon, will be deported to Thailand tomorrow (Tuesday). She is currently being held at the Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire.

When his illness took a turn for the worse, Mrs Leonardi applied for a spouse visa, so she could carrying on caring for him, but the application has been rejected.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, which is supporting the couple, said that her application met all requirements, and was simply refused because the application was filed from within the UK.

It added that the Home Office said the case did not meet the exceptional circumstances despite Mr Leonardi’s illness.

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq this weekend called for the deportation to be cancelled and the case urgently reviewed.

Mr Leonardi, a former milkman, said: “It’s one of the craziest rules I’ve ever heard of. Everything is stressful at the moment to be honest with you. Even sleeping, I’m waking up at all times in the night.”

Mark and Ngamngon

The couple met in Khonkaen in Thailand 15 years ago where Mrs Leonardi was working in a clothes shop. They married in Bangkok in 2015 and have been visiting each other for months at a time since.

Mr Leonardi was diagnosed with renal failure on Christmas Day 2003. He had a kidney transplant the following year but it stopped working several years ago and he now relies on dialysis.

He said his wife was on a tourist visa in the UK last year when he fell seriously ill after an epileptic seizure.

She spent weeks at his bedside in hospital and then they applied for a spouse visa, which costs over £1,000, as it was clear he needed her care.

However, they found out earlier this year that the Home Office had rejected the request due to her being in the country at the time of applying and on the grounds the case did not meet the “exceptional circumstances”, despite being presented with medical evidence showing the severity of Mr Leonardi’s condition.

On July 16, when she was completing her monthly report to an immigration centre, she was suddenly detained.

Mr Leonardi said: “It was just on the spot. She thought they were joking. She had done nothing wrong. It’s devastating really. I thought if I have another fit, there’s no one to look after me.”

If deported to Thailand, it could take months for the spouse visa to be processed. Mr Leonardi said his wife helped him with his medication, took him to hospital for treatment and he said he may end up missing vital appointments because he cannot get there without help.

Ms Siddiq said: “I am deeply concerned to learn that my constituent is in Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre facing a forced deportation, simply because of what seems to be a technicality in the immigration system.

“I understand she has been caring for her gravely ill husband, and even though the Home Office agreed that she met the requirements, her application was rejected because she had not applied from her home country.

“I have raised this as an urgent case with the Home Office and the new Home Secretary. I dearly hope her case is reviewed immediately and her deportation is cancelled.”

Tulip Siddiq

Mary Atkinson, the families together campaign officer at the JCWI, said: “Mr and Mrs Leonardi have been in a loving partnership for over 15 years, and Mr Leonardi is in extremely poor health – the Home Office knows all of this.

“That they are trying to send Mrs Leonardi thousands of miles from her husband at a time like this is nothing short of cruelty. Nobody should be locked up with no notice and sent away like this – the Home Office must stop splitting apart loving couples, and allow people to apply to remain with their loved ones when they are already in the UK.”

A petition has been launched to help the couple:

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “All applications are considered on their individual merits, on the basis of the evidence provided and in accordance with the immigration rules.

 “It would be inappropriate to comment further while legal proceedings are ongoing.” 

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