The perfect transplant match – but not for the Home Office: Would you give up a kidney just to get into Britain?

Oliver Cameron tells Cahal Milmo how the heartlessness of Britain’s immigration policy is preventing his sister’s mercy mission from Jamaica

When Oliver Cameron made the difficult phone call to his family in Jamaica, to explain that he needed a donor for a life-changing kidney transplant, his elder sister Keisha Rushton did not hesitate. She told him: “You are the only brother I have got. I love you. Let me do this for you.”

The benefits of a new kidney are huge for recipients. But for the donor the procedure requires a major operation and a recovery period of up to three months. There can be complications and, in very rare cases (one in 3,000), the donor dies.

It is an arrangement that few would enter into lightly.

Despite the risks, Ms Rushton, a mother of seven, decided to sacrifice one of her two healthy kidneys for her younger brother living on the other side of the world, and applied for a visa to come to London to undergo the NHS operation.

Mr Cameron, a plumber who has been unable to work since suffering near-fatal renal failure in 2012, borrowed £700 he could ill afford to fund her visa application, excited at the prospect of a future without the gruelling order of daily dialysis and being able to once more earn a living.

While most people would have seen Ms Rushton’s request to visit Britain as the fruit of filial love and an admirable self-sacrifice, that was not how it was seen by those at the Home Office in charge of applying Britain’s draconian immigration rules.

When Ms Rushton, 40, attended the British High Commission in Kingston in expectation of receiving a visa for her and her baby son, she was handed an envelope and told not to open it until she had left the building.

Inside was a letter bluntly telling her that she had been refused entry to Britain because she could not be trusted to return home. She had been unable to provide evidence to officials of her income in Jamaica and thus prove she would return home after the operation, the refusal notice said.

Her explanation that she was self-employed as a hairdresser and therefore did not receive payslips or similar documentation, and also had six remaining children and a sick mother to whom she had to return, fell on stony ground.

Oliver Cameron's sister Keisha with her fiancé Oliver Cameron's sister Keisha with her fiancé
In the letter she received from UK Visas & Immigration, signed anonymously by “Entry Clearance Officer 5”, Ms Rushton was told “close consideration” had been given to the “compassionate aspects” of her reasons to travel.

But it concluded: “I am not satisfied as to your intentions in wishing to travel to the UK now. I am not satisfied that you genuinely intend a short visit only to the UK and that you will leave the UK at the end of the visit.”

For Mr Cameron, 38, a British citizen, the decision has been a crushing – and incomprehensible – blow.

It also once more casts a spotlight on the unyielding way in which immigration rules are being applied, following the expulsion last week of the Mauritian teenager Yashika Bageerhati despite a petition signed by 175,000 people calling for her to be allowed to stay.

Labour called for Mr Cameron’s case to be reviewed by the Home Office.  The shadow Immigration Minister, David Hanson, said: “Given the sacrifice that Keisha is to make to help her brother live, I would hope the Home Office could review this again and be sympathetic to the application.”

Diane Abbott, who is Mr Cameron’s MP, said: “This was an exceptionally cruel decision by the Home Office. I tried to argue Mr Cameron’s case but officials were not interested. I believe that officials could have exercised more compassion. But the current climate of political debate on immigration means that we are seeing more of these harsh decisions.”

Mr Cameron came to Britain in 1999 after marrying his British-born wife, Sheryl, and spent more than a decade working in north London, helping to raise the couple’s four children, before he suffered near-fatal renal failure in  December 2012.

After spending more than a week in intensive care, he was told by doctors the drug he had been taking to control his diabetes had catastrophically damaged his kidneys and without a transplant he would need dialysis to keep him alive.

He currently treats himself three times a day, changing large bags of fluid to prevent renal failure – a process that leaves him exhausted and in discomfort. The operation to receive his sister’s kidney had been due to take place last October after tests confirmed she was compatible.

Speaking at his home in Stoke Newington, north London, Mr Cameron told The Independent: “I just find it incredibly hard to understand. I don’t want to be on dialysis, I want to be useful to society, to pay my dues and raise my family. My sister has made this incredible, loving offer to me and I don’t know why they have denied her the chance to help me.

“We provided the guarantees from relatives and friends that she would be financially supported here during her stay. And yet the Home Office said ‘no, you can’t come and help your brother, we don’t believe you’. It’s inhumane.”

Speaking from the family home in Lucea Hanover, a quiet seaside town on the north-western tip of Jamaica, Ms Rushton said: “I remember opening the envelope and bursting into tears. I have no desire to stay in Britain – I have seven children and an elderly mother to look after here.”

Mr Cameron, a softly-spoken grandfather who says he feels keenly the indignity of not being able to work because of his condition, said his upset had been deepened by factual errors in the letter sent to his sister.

The Home Office response stated she was coming to Britain to “undergo private medical treatment” and, while acknowledging there were “compassionate aspects” of her application, said she was “to undergo surgery to donate your liver”.

Mr Cameron, who first raised his case on the broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer’s LBC radio show, said: “If they can’t get the basic details right, it makes me wonder how much seriousness was given to their considerations.”

About 1,300 kidney transplants are performed in Britain every year but there are no reliable figures for the number of operations involving foreign donors. The success rate for the procedure is high and it can dramatically improve the quality of life of kidney failure sufferers such as Mr Cameron, who is receiving treatment at the Royal Free Hospital in north London.

Mr Cameron is also on the NHS waiting list for a donor organ.

But the father-of-four, who took out a loan with a credit union to fund his sister’s visa, in anticipation of being able to pay back the money by gaining employment after his operation, points out that his family are seeking to lessen the burden on the NHS.

He said: “By taking a donor from within my family, we’re ensuring that another organ could go to someone else. But the system is not built to take these things into consideration. From what I have seen, it’s built to keep people who want to do good things out.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: "All applications are considered on their individual merits, including any compelling and compassionate circumstances, and in line with the immigration rules.

“The onus is on the individual to ensure they provide all necessary evidence when submitting an application.”

The rules: How Keisha Rushton failed to qualify

The latest edition of Britain’s Immigration Rules stretches to 19 separate volumes. Once those have been digested, there are 27 explanatory appendices running to several hundred pages.

The case of Keisha Rushton was examined under Volume Two of these regulations, which cover people seeking to come to Britain for private medical treatment – despite the fact that the operation she was to undergo on her brother’s behalf was to have been at an NHS hospital.

Under the provisions of paragraph 51 (iv), applicants must prove they intend to leave Britain after undergoing treatment. It was decided that the self-employed hairdresser failed to meet that criteria.

But the Immigration Rules also contain a provision for officials to consider exceptional grounds for allowing an individual to enter or remain in the United Kingdom. Such decisions are made by a Case Referral Unit inside the Home Office and are described as being “outside the Immigration Rules”.

However, officials decided the case of a woman seeking to help her brother by surrendering one of her vital organs did not qualify as being sufficiently exceptional.

Cahal Milmo

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
filmReview: Gyllenhaal, in one of his finest performances, is funny, engaging and sinister all at once
Arts and Entertainment
Shelley Duvall stars in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining
filmCritic Kaleem Aftab picks his favourites for Halloween
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington has been given a huge pay rise to extend his contract as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones
tv
Life and Style
Taste the difference: Nell Frizzell tucks into a fry-up in Jesse's cafe in east London
food + drinkHow a bike accident left one woman living in a distorted world in which spices smell of old socks and muesli tastes like pork fat
Sport
Luke Shaw’s performance in the derby will be key to how his Manchester United side get on
footballBeating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Life and Style
Google's doodle celebrating Halloween 2014
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
filmThis Halloween, we ask what makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?
News
peopleFarage challenges 'liberally biased' comedians to 'call him a narcissist'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior IP Opportunity at Major Firm

vary Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - AN OPENING AT A VERY HIGH Q...

Nursery Manager

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Nursery Manager Long term Ran...

Sales Consultant – Permanent – West Sussex – £24-£25k plus commission and other benefits

£24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes