Rich and poor unite to fight expulsion of Nigerian priest

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The Independent Online
Frank Omoregie, a Nigerian pastor seeking asylum following the assassination of his father and brother, has gained the support of 1,000 neighbours in his Brixton parish as well as 200 City executives.

The unlikely alliance between some of London's richest and poorest stems from Mr Omoregie's time as a caretaker at St Helen's Church, Bishopsgate, in 1993, when many in the congregation got to know him personally. He subsequently moved to Brixton and founded a house church, which now has 80 members. The two, very different, parishes have joined forces and are urgently seeking a meeting with Jack Straw, the Home Secretary.

Mr Omoregie first came to London in 1989, at the invitation of Christ Gospel Church in Brixton. He thought he was travelling on a missionary visa, but it turned out that he was wrongly issued with a visitor visa, valid for only six months.

Within months of his arrival in Britain, his father was shot dead in Nigeria by a satanic cult which Mr Omoregie had openly criticised. A year later, his brother died in "suspicious circumstances", and Mr Omoregie was warned that, should he return, he would be next.

Now Mr Omoregie, 37, is living in fear. Last month he was served with a deportation order which could be enforced at any time. He believes that if he returns to Nigeria he will be murdered by the cult that killed his relatives. "It's like living on Death Row," he said yesterday. "It's never certain as to the time or the date you're going to be executed until the news of the clemency comes."

Far from scrounging off the system, Mr Omoregie works tirelessly in one of the nation's most underprivileged communities. Not for nothing did the City financiers who last week launched the Omoregie Support Group choose as their slogan: "Frank: A carer and a credit - not a cost".

Mr Omoregie, who lives with his wife, Juliet, 33, and two sons, Benjamin, six, and Christopher, four, is pinning his hopes on Labour. "The last government did not look at my case on merit, but with a stereotypical view that every Nigerian is fraudulent." he said. "That really upset me because a lot of times I rebuke people within the area who are putting in wrong applications. I deter them from ripping off the economy."

Both Kate Hoey, MP for Vauxhall, and the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, have appealed to the Home Office. Others have written to Mr Straw urging him to lift the deportation order.

Oneh, Victoria Stove, wrote: "It is hard to believe that we could be as inhumane as to disown responsibility for their lives when they have spent their entire time in Britain trying to encourage love and faith amongst the people around them. They are a wonderful example to us all." Clare Garner and Claire Scott