Thai wife detained and faces deportation from the UK
A seriously ill British man says he is fearing for his life after the Home Office detained his wife and threatened her with imminent deportation.
Mark Leonardi, 62, who suffers from end-stage kidney disease and epilepsy, said he had no one to care for him after his wife of four years and sole carer, Ngam Ngon Leonardi, was detained in Yarl’s Wood two weeks ago and told she would be removed to her native Thailand.
Ms Leonardi, 52, was set to be deported at 4pm on Tuesday, but less than two hours before the flight – and shortly after The Independent approached the Home Office for comment on the case – her removal was deferred. She is still being held in detention and is liable for deportation.
MPs and charities argued that the decision to detain and deport Ms Leonardi was in “nobody’s interest” and said it was “beyond the pale” for the Home Office to separate a wife who cares for her sick husband.
The couple, who met 15 years ago and got married in 2015, have moved between north London and Thailand throughout their married life.
They came to the UK last May, with a plan to go back to Thailand after Ms Leonardi’s six-month tourist visa expired.
But during this time, Mr Leonardi became seriously ill due to kidney failure, meaning he had to go on dialysis, and the couple decided that – due to both difficulty for him to travel and the lack of treatment available in Thailand – Ms Leonardi would apply for longer-term immigration status in the UK.
Her application was rejected three months later. While the Home Office accepted the couple had a “genuine and subsisting” relationship, it said the treatment for Mr Leonardi’s medical condition was available in Thailand, adding;
“Even if this was not the case, it is open to [Mr Leonardi] to remain in the UK to receive the medical treatment he needs, while [Ms Leonardi] returns to Thailand to obtain the correct entry clearance.”
The department also argued that, if he did not have friends or family to care for him in the UK, Mr Leonardi could “access the NHS and any care or support requirements he may have through his local authority”.
Speaking to The Independent, Mr Leonardi, who has launched a petition against the Home Office’s decision to deport his wife, said the only family he had in the UK was his 87-year-old mother, whom he could not rely on for care.
He added: “I’ve got no one else. I need someone to look after me. I get epilepsy at night time. If I’m by myself and I get a seizure, it will kill me. I’ve been OK so far, but I’m really scared. I feel lost.
“My wife was looking after me. She is also my best friend. When I heard she had been detained I was devastated. Oh my god, it was a shock. She was going to report with the Home Office and they just detained her and locked her up.
She’s not a runaway risk.
“It’s going to be hard, especially shopping and things. If I have a fit and fall over, and I’ve got no one there, I think that would kill me.”
The couple’s MP, Tulip Siddiq, who had made representations to the Home Office on behalf of the couple, said she was “delighted” that my Ms Leonardi’s removal had been granted temporary reprieve, but added:
“We will not rest until she is guaranteed to stay in the UK and back at home with her husband.
“To separate a couple of 15 years has been cruel enough, but to separate a wife who cares for her seriously ill husband is beyond the pale. It is yet another case that illustrates the cruelty at the heart of the UK’s immigration regime.”
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott described the case as “yet more unnecessary cruelty from the Tory Home Office”, adding:
”The government needs to realize that they cannot continue to treat people like this. At some point, there will be consequences for their inhumane policies.”
Mary Atkinson, families together campaign officer at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said:
“According to the Home Office, supporting your partner of 15 years through end-stage kidney failure is not an exceptional circumstance. We think most people would disagree.
“When Mr and Ms Leonardi married, they vowed to support each other in good times and bad, in sickness and in health. The Home Office must stop standing in their way and immediately release Ms Leonardi, letting her return home to support her husband at his time of greatest need.”
The Home Office has been approached for comment