'Betrayed' Makosi fights the reality of deportation

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The Independent Online

She has been catapulted to fame by reality television - but is about to discover whether the exposure she so controversially courted will result in her being thrown out of Britain.

Makosi Musambasi, one of Big Brother's most headline-grabbing contestants, is appealing against deportation back to her native Zimbabwe because she fears she will face a backlash over her antics on the Channel 4 show.

The 24-year-old cardiac nurse from Harare, who has lived in Britain for six years, training and working at a hospital in High Wycombe, believes she has been unfairly targeted by the immigration services because of her high profile.

Her lawyer this week lodged an appeal against curtailment papers served against her when she broke the terms of her visa, which only allowed her to reside in Britain while she was working for the NHS. She is now waiting for a hearing date, which could take up to six weeks.

Ms Musambasi initially applied for and was granted a sabbatical, but permission for a career break was withdrawn when NHS managers discovered she was planning to appear on TV. Presented with the choice of resigning or turning down the chance to become an overnight celeb-rity, she left her job.

Her employers notified the Home Office of her change in status on 2 June but it was more than two months before she was served with the curtailment papers that give her 10 days to leave the country or appeal. Meanwhile, she had been beamed into living rooms up and down the country on a nightly basis.

"They only came after me two and a half months later," said Ms Musambasi. "They can't turn round and say we didn't know where to find her because I think even three-year-olds around England would find me if they wanted."

Philip Barth, a partner at the law firm Penningtons who is representing Ms Musambasi, said: "I think they have been too precipitous in making this decision. I think they have targeted her just because of her high profile."

Ms Musambasi said: "I feel very betrayed. I've entertained the nation for three months and then you come after me. Go into any hospital. The amount of cleaners that probably have the wrong immigration status, but because they are doing the dirtiest job that nobody wants to do, they will not make an example of that person."

As a nurse, Ms Musambasi earned £17,000 a year. Her main motivation in appearing on Big Brother 6 was to increase her earning capacity to help pay for an operation for her mother, who has a brain tumour.

Her parents still live in Harare, where her father worked as a police officer and her mother is a desk-top publisher. Ms Musambasi describes Zimbabwe as a deeply tribal culture where her behaviour on Big Brother is frowned on because, "a woman is a second class citizen".

Internet chat forums in Zimbabwe have been bombarded with negative comments about her. Her fears include "anything from being attacked in the street to being discriminated from getting a job". "Homosexuality is illegal, you get arrested for it. So me snogging [fellow female contestants] Orlaith and Sam on TV didn't go down well. Me wearing all those bikinis and me being topless, that didn't go down well," she said.

Ms Musambasi is vague about whether she will return to nursing if she is allowed to remain in the UK.

"I would love to go back to nursing, but imagine if you had a heart attack and you were not a fan of Makosi and and I'm sticking electrodes on to your chest, would it not make you worse? I love working with people, whether it's on the ward or entertaining them."