Gamu and family 'hopeful' they can stay in UK

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The Independent Online

X Factor contestant Gamu Nhengu and her family were "hopeful" they would be allowed to remain in the UK today after the Home Office decided to reconsider her case.

The 18-year-old singer, who was eliminated from the ITV talent show at the judges' houses stage, was told she must return to her native Zimbabwe after her mother Nokuthula Ngazana's visa application was turned down.

An appeal against that decision was due to be heard at an Immigration Tribunal in Glasgow today.

However, at the start of the hearing, a Home Office representative said the case would be reconsidered and a "fresh decision will be made in due course".

Speaking after the hearing, the family's lawyer, Frances Farrell, told reporters: "The family are pleased that the Home Office have withdrawn their decisions and decided to reconsider my clients' cases.

"The family are hopeful that they will now be granted leave to remain in the UK.

"They want to thank everyone for all the wonderful support they have had."

Miss Nhengu, who lives with her family in Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire, was allowed to stay in the country as a dependant while her mother studied at university.

But her mother's visa expired and the family's application to remain was rejected as they did not meet Home Office criteria.

The move came amid allegations, denied by the family, that Ms Ngazana had wrongly claimed working tax credits.

The family was told last month to leave the UK voluntarily or face deportation.

Despite initially being told they had no right of appeal, the family was given a lifeline after being granted a full appeal hearing before a judge.

The case, an appeal against the refusal of Ms Ngazana's visa, was expected to be heard before immigration judge Mungo Deans today.

Ms Ngazana and Miss Nhengu were present for the hearing and held hands as they waited for proceedings to get under way.

But a Home Office representative told the start of the hearing that he had instructions to withdraw the original decision dating to October 6, over a "technical issue".

Myles Matthews said the case "will now be reconsidered and a fresh decision will be made in due course".

Mr Deans said: "There is nothing to come now before the tribunal to hear or consider. That's the end of proceedings, as far as these particular appeals are concerned."

Mrs Farrell said afterwards: "They (the Home Office) will go and reconsider the matter, so it's open to them to either issue another refusal, against which there would definitely be right of appeal, or it's open to them to grant my clients' leave."

The solicitor said she hoped a fresh decision would be made within weeks, rather than months.

Miss Nhengu and her family arrived in Scotland from Zimbabwe five years ago.

The talented teenager became a household name when X Factor judge Cheryl Cole failed to put her through to the live shows.

A huge hit with fans, Miss Nhengu's controversial axing from the show caused a storm among viewers, with hundreds of thousands of people signing up to a page on social networking website Facebook demanding her reinstatement.

Show bosses denied suggestions that Cole was influenced by visa issues.

Miss Nhengu has claimed she would face a firing squad if she is forced to return to Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe.

In recent weeks, it emerged that Simon Cowell has thrown his weight behind the campaign to save her from deportation.

The X Factor judge's lawyers are said to have been drafted in to help her in her fight to stay in the UK.

Gordon Banks, the Labour MP for Tillicoultry, and local SNP MSP Keith Brown are among those who have supported the teenager in her immigration case.

Miss Nhengu has recorded a single to be released in the battle for the Christmas number one spot.

Aberlour, a Stirling-based children's charity, is releasing the single Where Will You Sleep This Christmas?, featuring the teenager's vocals.

The song was written by Miss Nhengu's former music teacher David Clifford and will be released on December 13.

Mr Brown, the MSP for Ochil, said he was "delighted" the Home Office has agreed to look again at the family's visa application.

The SNP MSP said he wrote to the Home Secretary today to voice his support for the family's case.

He said: "Tillicoutry is the family's home. They are a part of the local community, who are behind them 100%, and they should be allowed to stay.

"Gamu has many friends here, has grown up here and has made a real contribution to this area.

"People across Scotland want Gamu and her family to stay in Scotland.

"I share the family's hopes that this will result in a positive outcome."