The parents of a young British woman dying of cancer have been told by the Home Office they can no longer care for their daughter and must leave the country.
Mauro Monteiro De Carvalho and his wife Neuza, who live in Brazil, have been caring for their daughter Giselle and her one-year-old son since she was diagnosed with cancer in October.
But her parents' application for leave to remain on compassionate grounds has been rejected by officials because current legislation "is not intended to enable a person to provide childcare for the sick relative". They had previously been admitted to the UK on a six-month tourist visa last October.
In a letter from the UK Border Agency on behalf of the then Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, officials said the Brazilians did not qualify for a concession for carers. They wrote: "Whilst the Secretary of State is sympathetic to your daughter's circumstances, she has a husband who is supporting her and help and support is available from other agencies, such as Social Services and organisations involved in support for cancer patients and their relatives.
"In view of the above," the letter concludes, "the Secretary of State is not prepared to exercise her discretion to grant leave under this concession."
Ms Carvalho-Norris's husband, Jeff, a chartered surveyor, continues working to support his family. Mr Norris's 74-year-old mother lives 40 miles away and his only sibling – his sister Lindsey – lives in the North-east.
Ms Carvalho-Norris, 33, was admitted to Charing Cross Hospital in October and diagnosed with choriocarcinoma, a rare cancer related to pregnancy that affects around one in 150,000 people. Surgery to remove a brain tumour and chemotherapy, which included spending the whole of April in isolation in Hammersmith Hospital, has been largely successful. But at Christmas, scans revealed the further spread of cancer into the liver, which is very difficult to treat through chemotherapy. Ms Carvalho-Norris is due to have an operation next Tuesday, on which her life depends.
Dawn Butler, the couple'sMP, wrote to the Home Office yesterday, urging the Secretary of State to reconsider, having also done so in April. She told The Independent she recognised the decision has "caused stress to Mr Norris and his family. Mr Norris has a right of appeal and I have encouraged him to exercise his right."
Ms Carvalho-Norris said she was "devastated" by the decision. "My parents have been providing us with emotional and practical support, looking after me unconditionally for 24 hours a day," she said. "Amid so much uncertainty over my future, and the prospect that I won't be able to provide for my baby, I would be lost without them. It just seems so cruel that the Home Office is being so inflexible. They don't want to stay here permanently, just a few more months. I'm having between 50 and 60 per cent of my liver removed next week, but to have my parents taken away as well is too much to bear."
A UK Border Agency spokesperson said: "Our immigration system is firm but fair. We do allow individuals to remain in the UK to care for a sick relative. However, this is only ever temporary and to allow for future care arrangements to be put in place. Where there are other immediate family present and settled in the UK who can provide such care, it is unlikely an individual would qualify."
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies