Oscar-winning actor Colin Firth has thrown his weight behind a campaign to stop a severely ill Leeds woman being deported to Nigeria.
He took a break from filming in Thailand to issue a message of support for Rose Akhalu, 48, of Headingley, who was diagnosed with acute kidney disease months after arriving to study at Leeds University.
He said: “Few things are this straightforward: Rose is sick, if we don’t help her she dies.
“The decision is entirely ours. I’m sure saving her won’t compromise the government’s enforced removal policy. This is an exceptional case.”
Rose arrived in the UK in September 2004 on a student visa, to study for a Masters Degree. She unexpectedly developed end-stage renal failure in 2005 and remained on dialysis until she received a kidney transplant at St. James Hospital, Leeds, in July 2009.
Rose has applied for leave to remain in the UK but was refused.
After reporting to the immigration centre as usual last Saturday she was picked up and taken to Yarl’s Wood detention centre. She was served with removal directions for Lagos, Nigeria on June 7. She was released from the centre after her lawyers took out an emergency injunction to allow her to attend a judicial review scheduled for July 24.
Widowed Mrs Akhalu needs to take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of her life. They are expensive in Nigeria and, with no family to support her, she cannot afford them.
Dr James Tattershall, Rose’s renal specialist, said: “She’ll be on anti rejection medication for the rest of her life.
“Now that her visa has run out the government wants Roseline to return to Nigeria - but the drugs she needs aren’t available to her there. Deportation will be a death sentence.”
Supporters have launched an online petition as part of their campaign to keep Rose in the UK.