John Leech writes…Help save fire-rescue hero from deportation

If I asked you to imagine your ideal community, who and what would be in it? What kind of people would you choose to have as your neighbour? Would you want a neighbour who would be there in your moment of need – maybe even go as far as risking their life for you?

Well, you may have heard that just over a month ago, a resident here in Manchester did just that.

Robert Chilowa ran to the scene of a ferocious blaze engulfing a neighbour’s house after hearing screams of terror. He rescued two young children from the flames and assisted another who had broken her ankle in the disaster that had already claimed the lives of their grandparents. His heroic efforts were the only saving grace in an otherwise tragic event.

Now, I’ll take a pretty good guess that you’d want this man as your neighbour, right? Well, despite braving the devastating fire in Withington, rightly garnering national headlines, he has now been threatened with deportation.

Mr. Chilowa received a letter from the Home Office informing him he had no right to stay and was to be deported back to Zimbabwe. Mr. Chilowa is a member of the political opposition party in Zimbabwe, and could face persecution for his political activity, were he to be forced to return.

Deporting this man would be an act of gross injustice, critically undermining our sense of humanity and our commitment to inclusion and tolerance. As a Liberal Democrat, as a local representative, as a Mancunian, as a citizen of the UK and the world, I will not stand by and watch this happen.

After meeting and speaking with Robert last week, I wrote a letter to Home Secretary Amber Rudd demanding that he be allowed to continue living here in Withington.

Yesterday, I made my letter public. And since then, more than 700 people have backed me.

An extension to his deportation deadline was granted, but a final hearing will be held this week to determine whether he can stay, and I need you to stand with me.

I need you to stand up for an open, tolerant and united country, and I need you to do it right now.

Because this may be happening in Manchester, but it is of national significance – just think about the kind of message we would send out if he were forced to leave the UK? Right now, whilst a family mourns, this Government, instead of lauding and thanking a hero, is trying to deport him.

>I need you to add your name to my campaign. Please, go here, add your name and share it as far as you possibly can.

* Cllr John Leech was Lib Dem MP for Manchester Withington until 2015 and is now the only opposition councillor in Manchester.

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