Cowell backs Gamu in deportation battle

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The Independent Online

Simon Cowell has thrown his weight behind the campaign to save snubbed X Factor star Gamu Nhengu from deportation to Zimbabwe, it was revealed today.

The music mogul's lawyers have been drafted in to help the 18-year-old singer in her battle to stay in the UK.

The prospect of being sent back to her homeland has been hanging over the teenager after her mother's visa application was turned down.

Cowell said today: "We are helping Gamu and her family as much as possible and have lawyers working with her lawyers, not because we have to - but because I really feel for their situation, and that's outside of the show."

Multi-millionaire Cowell, 51, maintained bosses at the ITV1 show were not aware of Nhengu's visa situation while she was on the programme.

"We were unaware there would be any problem with her visa until this week," he said.

The teenager's mother Nokuthula Ngazana was permitted to stay in the UK while she studied at university, with Nhengu permitted to remain in the country as her dependant.

But Ms Ngazana's application to remain in the country was turned down, with the UK Border Agency saying it did not "meet all of the conditions for approval".

Frances Farrell, the lawyer representing Nhengu and her family, has said she would appeal to an immigration tribunal against plans to deport them.

Cowell's lawyers are expected to advise on the appeal to a Glasgow tribunal and it is understood an X Factor producer has been assigned to look after the family.

Nhengu, who lives in Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire, reportedly fears for her safety if she is forced to return to her native Zimbabwe.

She told the Scottish Sun: "I genuinely fear for my life if we are forced to go back. I love the UK and want to stay here."

Nhengu was booted off X Factor last weekend, despite being a huge hit with fans.

More than 250,000 fans have signed up to a Facebook page called Gamu Should Have Got Through, in protest at judge Cheryl Cole's decision to leave Nhengu out of the final 12.

Cole defended her decision today, saying: "I understand completely why everybody felt so strongly towards Gamu. I thought she was great too like all eight girls but what the public saw was an edited version of what the audition process actually involves.

"It is always a tough decision and for me personally, the part I enjoy the least. I would have loved to take all of the girls."

She said of Nhengu's deportation battle: "I was not aware of Gamu's situation outside of the competition and I am incredibly sad for both her and her family but I have to stress that it did not have any influence over my choice."

Those who did make it through will face the public vote for the first time tonight, with show insiders promising "a twist" to the usual routine.

The first live show at 7.40pm will see the final 12 perform and the phonelines open for the public to deliver their verdict.

The pressure is on Katie Waissel after the bookmakers made her favourite to be eliminated from the show.

The 24-year-old from Hertfordshire was widely seen as being put through the Judge's Houses stage by Cole at the expense of Nhengu.

Waissel said ahead of the programme: "I'm working really hard and being really positive and I can do it and I can't wait for the live shows to happen."

Cowell said: "I can't wait for tonight, Its probably the most I have looked forward to a first live show. Its great to have the two girls back. Danni looks incredible and she's not going to have any trouble dealing with Louis and his tantrums this year."

The results will be announced on tomorrow's show when the finalists will be joined by last year's winner, Joe McElderry.