Indian man in UK who was thanked by queen for work during Covid faces deportation
A Covid hero, praised by the Queen for his work helping vulnerable families, is to be deported from the UK in a matter of weeks after his appeal to stay was rejected. 42-year-old Vimal Pandya lost a hearing at the immigration tribunal recently and is now said to be in talks with his lawyers for a way forward.
Vimal travelled to the UK from his native India in 2011 on a study visa but his college's right to sponsor foreign students was revoked by the Home Office three years later - putting his future in jeopardy.
UK Border Force officials informed him that the college at which he was enrolled had lost its right to sponsorship, but neither the college nor the Home Office had reportedly informed him of this. Then without access to his original passport and other documents he faced an uphill struggle to address the issue.
Since then, Vimal, who lives in Rotherhithe, south London, has spent the last nine years and thousands of pounds fighting to remain in the UK.
During the pandemic, Pandya was employed as a local shopkeeper and is said to have worked tirelessly by dedicating “every waking hour” to ensure those in self-isolation during the national lockdown received regular food and essential supplies.
Despite being faced with deportation, the selfless shopkeeper became a pillar of the community during the first Coronvirus lockdown, helping more than 50 families with free food deliveries and emotional support. His efforts were recognised by the Queen's personal representative in Greater London, who wrote to Vimal on Her Majesty's behalf to thank him.
But now he has just a matter of weeks left before he is forced to fly back to India, after a tribunal hearing ruled the 'public interest in immigration control' outweighs his position as a pillar of the community, with a judge saying Vimal had been working in the UK 'illegally for many years'.
The Home Office's decision to deport Vimal sparked outrage in his local community and nationwide, with hundreds of people attending demonstrations to support him and an online petition to reinstate his visa gaining more than 175,000 signatures.
“We are devastated. He is devastated. But we will not give up the fight, if any path forward can be found,” the residents said in a Change.Org petition update last week.
“Vimal has always shown how much he cares about the Rotherhithe community where he's lived for 11 years. So many of us have benefited from his help and support over the years, which is why we are fighting to stop him being unjustly deported,” they say.