NHS worker forced to use foodbanks as Home Office attempts to kick her out of UK

An NHS worker has resorted to using food banks as the Home Office attempt to kick her out of the UK.

Uju Onuigbo, a physiotherapist who was working at the Royal Stoke University Hospital, was told to leave when her work visa became invalid after losing her job in August 2017.

But Nigerian Uju is currently going through an employment tribunal after claiming unfair dismissal and says she has been told she has a right to remain in the UK for court proceedings.

Despite this, the Home Office have denied her two subsequent visa applications, meaning she has been out of work for two years and is unable to claim beneifts.

Uju, who lives in Newcastle, says she has racked up debts of £10,000 and has been forced to turn to food banks, reports Stoke-on-Trent Live.

She said: "The problems started when I lost my job at the Royal Stoke because it meant I lost my visa which only allowed me to work for University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust.

"My visa was supposed to expire in December 2020 but in June 2018 I was advised to leave the UK or apply for another visa.

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"I have an ongoing tribunal against the Royal Stoke so I decided to apply for Discretionary Leave to Remain (DLR). I also applied for a fee exemption as I could not afford the visa fees of £1,533.

"I had no income, no benefits and was completely dependent on borrowing from my friends for rent, daily living expenses and I was using foodbanks.

"During this time I received a job offer from Macclesfield NHS to help with winter pressures as a physiotherapist assistant.

"But I was unable to take this as I was still waiting for a decision on my visa from the Home Office.

"Then in March 2019 I was told that my application had been refused and they advised me to appeal the decision or make another application.

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"After that I was told that I now had to report to the Salford immigration office once a month 'to protect the British public'.

"But I worked for the NHS for three-and-a-half years, I paid my taxes promptly and have a good network of British friends. Yet, the Home Office thinks the British public needs to be protected from me.

"Then, as advised by the Home Office, I appealed its decision and made another visa application for which I was granted a fee exemption this time.

"I then attended an immigration appeal hearing in July where I had to represent myself as I had no legal support and the judge dismissed my appeal.

"Then in October I received the decision that my most recent visa application had also been refused. They have again advised me to appeal the decision and make another application.

"They say I have a right to be here for my employment tribunal – but keep refusing my visa."

She added: "My life has been hellish for more than two years.

"I don't mind doing cleaning jobs, I am desperate to return to any work as I am going through severe financial hardship.

"I am in severe debt – nearly £10,000 – and I owe two months' rent. I don't know what to do."

The Home Office has declined to comment because Uju's case remains subject to appeal.

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