Cllr John Leech pleads for government to allow Robert Chilowa, who rescued two children from a blaze, to stay
Former Withington MP and the city’s sole opposition councillor, John Leech, has urged the government to ‘show some compassion’ after Zimbabwean Robert Chilowa received noticed of deportation - just days after he saved the lives of two children in a ferocious blaze.
Chilowa has been seeking political asylum from the despotic regime of Robert Mugabe since 2001. As a member of the opposition party in Zimbabwe, he could face persecution for his political activity were he forced to return.
Mr. Chilowa made national headlines last month when, after seeing flames engulf a neighbour’s house on Withington’s Parsonage Road, he dashed to the scene and pulled two children - whose grandparents were killed in the fire - through a second floor window.
Following Leech’s intervention and a series of supported appeals, an extension on Chilowa’s deportation deadline was granted, and a final hearing will be held next week to determine whether he can stay
But last week he received a letter from the Home Office, informing him he had no right to stay and was to be deported back to Zimbabwe.
Now Cllr John Leech has launched a bid to grant the local hero permanent residence, describing his recent treatment as shocking. It’s not the first time Leech has protested unfair deportation, once halting a plane on the runway and demanding a constituent be removed and brought home.
Hoping this case won’t require such extreme action, the Lib Dem councillor has penned a strongly worded letter to Home Office Secretary Amber Rudd, which he made public on Sunday morning: attracting more than 600 backers by the end of the day. Following Leech’s intervention and a series of supported appeals, an extension on Chilowa’s deportation deadline was granted, and a final hearing will be held next week to determine whether he can stay.
The former Liberal Democrat MP said: "Unless you live and work here in Withington, you simply cannot appreciate just how much that fire rocked our community. Flowers from across the whole city piled up outside the family's home; it was a deeply painful time for everyone locally. "Especially with what's happening with Brexit, we need to show that we are an open, tolerant and united country. Brutally deporting a hero is not the way to go about that. "People like Robert make Manchester the thriving, diverse, international and world-class city it is today. We don't want him leaving, we want him involved in our community."
A petition on change.org has now attracted more than 6500 supporters.