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Deportation of Swiss Cottage man’s wife halted at last minute – but ‘fight goes on’

Ngamngon Leonardi was suddenly detained earlier this month

30 July, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

Mark and Ngamngon

THE deportation of a woman who was due to separated from her seriously unwell Swiss Cottage husband today (Tuesday) has been halted at the last minute.

As first reported by the New Journal yesterday, Mark Leonardi, 62, who has renal failure and is epileptic, was told his 52-year-old wife, Ngamngon, was going to be flown back to Thailand at 4pm today.

Her spouse visa, which she applied for when her husband’s illness took a turn for the worst last year, was 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 and her wife’s role caring for him.

Mrs Leonardi’s lawyer submitted a last minute Judicial Review today, which means her removal is automatically cancelled, JCWI say.

Mark Leonardi at his home this week

She had already been taken to the airport when JCWI were told of the cancellation at 1.30pm. They say she is being taken back to Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire. It can take up to a year before a judge hears the case.

Mary Atkinson, the families together campaign officer, said: “According to the Home Office’s own rules, they must now also release her from detention and back home where she belongs. She has been kept from him for far too long already.”

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

She said this afternoon: “Although it is good news that my constituent has had a temporary reprieve, and her deportation flight has been cancelled by the Home Office, I cant help but feel disgust at the fact that she is still detained in Yarl’s Wood. We won’t stop fighting until she is back home with her husband where she belongs.”

More than 2,000 people have signed a petition calling for the deportation to be halted.

Mr Leonardi, a former milkman, said yesterday: “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.”

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.”

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.

A Home Office spokeswoman previously 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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