'Hero' neighbour faces deportation from UK three weeks after saving children from fire

'I did nothing wrong. I don't have a criminal record. Someone should have a heart'

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Last month Robert Chilowa was hailed a hero after saving children from a fatal house fire - and this month he was told to get out of Britain.

Mr Chilowa, 46, dashed to the scene of the ferocious blaze engulfing a neighbour's house after hearing screams of terror and helped rescue two young children from the flames which claimed the lives of their grandparents.

His bravery “truly demonstrated community spirit”, police and fire chiefs said, and more lives could have been lost but for his “noble” actions along with other neighbours.

But three weeks later he is fighting to save his home in Withington, Manchester after being told he has outstayed his welcome in the UK.

Hospitalised for smoke inhalation after the fire, he has also been told not to use the NHS, he said.

Mr Chilowa, who came to the UK in 2001, says he is facing deportation back to Zimbabwe, where he says he fears for his safety.

“It is a slap in the face,” he said. “Friends said, 'When are you going to see the Queen? When are you going to be knighted? I did a great job but now what they are saying is, 'Get lost.”'

Three girls and one boy aged between 10 and 17 and the youngsters' uncle were taken to hospital after the fire in the early hours of 10 February.

Grandparents Mohammed Awad, 56, and Hasma Awad, 47, died at the scene.

Mr Chilowa ran to the house in his bare feet and was alerted by an older sister who had jumped from an upstairs window, that her younger brother and sisters were trapped inside.

Fighting the heat and smoke, he called up and told the youngsters to jump and he would catch them.

But last week he was called to a meeting with immigration officials who told him he had to leave the UK as there was “no case to answer” his application to stay, he said.

He returned home to find a letter from outsourcing firm Serco giving him a “Notice to Quit” his home after support from the Home Office was ended.

The letter, headed with Serco's strapline “Bringing service to life” and spelling his name wrong, threatens court action if he stays in the house and warns he must be out by 11 March, giving him 12 working days to leave and find new accommodation.

He was also informed he cannot claim benefits, or get alternative accommodation from the local council and advises him help may be available from the Salvation Army, Red Cross or religious organisations.

Mr Chilowa adds: “It really broke my heart what I'm going through now. I did nothing wrong. I don't have a criminal record. Someone should have a heart.”

He is reluctant to go into details about why he does not want to return to Zimbabwe, for fear of consequences for his family still living there, but the African state is in turmoil, suffers political violence and is ruled by dictator Robert Mugabe.

The cause of the blaze is not being treated as suspicious.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection and every case is assessed on its individual merits.

“If someone is found not to need our protection we expect them to leave the UK.”

Press Association

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