A Rotherhithe shopkeeper who has been called a “pillar of the community” by friends and neighbours could have to leave the country after eleven years, following the Home Office’s decision to reject his immigration appeal.
As we reported, Vimal Pandya, who works at Halai General Stores near Rotherhithe Street, went through a series of nightmarish and expensive setbacks with the Home Office in the years after arriving in the UK on a student visa in 2011.
He has been living in the UK without permission since 2015 but has become a hugely important part of his local community in Rotherhithe, helping out dozens of vulnerable families in the pandemic and getting a letter of thanks on behalf of the Queen for his efforts.
Despite all this, Mr Pandya was investigated by the Home Office again last year – and he found out yesterday (Wednesday, January 19) that his appeal had been unsuccessful, meaning he has to leave the country by February 2 or challenge the decision again, which would entail yet more legal costs.
Having already spent £40,000, much of which was borrowed, Mr Pandya said he does not have any more money. His supporters in Rotherhithe have launched a fundraiser on his behalf.
But, sounding dejected, Mr Pandya added: “I don’t have any steam left any more. I don’t know what to do. I’m gutted. It doesn’t feel right.”
He said he and his solicitor were unhappy with the arguments the Home Office gave in their letter explaining the refusal, some of which seemed “contradictory”, the lawyer said.
Mr Pandya collected nearly 80 letters from supporters backing his appeal and a petition calling on the Home Office to let him stay got more than 83,000 signatures. Neither appears to have worked in his favour.
The Home Office said in response to our original article that it does not comment on individual cases. A spokesperson added: “We are committed to an immigration policy which welcomes those in genuine need but which deters illegal immigration, prevents the abuse of benefits and services and removes immigration offenders from the UK.”
To donate to the fundraiser set up on behalf of Mr Pandya, click here.