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An immigrant mother and her daughter spent four years living in hotels paid for by the taxpayer while she waited for the Home Office to find the paperwork which proved she was allowed to stay in the UK.
The fiasco began after 32-year-old Lucille Wanjiru, from Kenya, lost her passport, which contained a Government-issued stamp proving she had the right to live and work in the UK.
The Home Office had given the stamp to Ms Wanjiru in 1999 and she had spent seven years working and living in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.
Lucille Wanjiru, 32, pictured with her daughter, spent four years living in hotels paid for by the taxpayer while she waited for the Home Office to find the paperwork which proved she had the right to stay in the UK
But despite being given a replacement passport the next year, officials refused to reissue Ms Wanjiru’s stamp because they claimed she had ‘insufficient evidence’ to prove her status.
Ms Wanjiru was moved into various hotels while the Home Office attempted to track down the original paperwork which it had used to approve Ms Wanjiru’s indefinite leave to remain.
She and her young daughter spent four years living in the Ibis Hotel and the Holiday Inn Express in Stevenage – sparking a £77,000 bill paid for by Hertfordshire County Council.
This week, Ms Wanjiru was finally given a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) which allows her to stay in the UK. But she has accused Government officials of wasting a ‘fortune’.
Although the onus is on the applicant to provide evidence of their status in the UK, the Home Office admitted the paperwork – which it originally used to grant her status – had been ‘difficult to track down’.
Miss Wanjiru, who lives with her six-year-old daughter, said: ‘It’s simply unbelievable. This has been going on for far too long – it’s just incredible.
‘I have proved time and again that I have the right to stay here but they’ve done nothing about it.’
Miss Wanjiru migrated to the UK from Kenya in 1994. She was granted indefinite leave to remain by the Home Office in 1999.
She lost her passport – which contained proof of her right to live and work in the UK – in 2006.
The Kenyan authorities reissued her passport in 2007. After that, Miss Wanjiru applied for another stamp so she could get back to work.
Ms Wanjiru said: ‘It must be costing a fortune – all this money has been wasted’
But the Home Office rejected her claim, insisting she had not provided ‘sufficient proof’ of her former status.
Without the stamp, Ms Wanjiru was unable to get a job. She received no benefits apart from a £80 weekly support payment for her daughter from the county council.
In 2009, Hertforshire County Council’s children’s services team moved the pair into the £45-a-night Ibis hotel.
In January 2012, the pair were relocated into the Holiday Inn Express. The 129-bedroom hotel, popular with business people, travellers and commuters, charges £59.99-a-night for a standard room.
Ms Wanjiru applied to the Home Office for the replacement stamp twice more before her status was finally approved on Tuesday this week.
But the accommodation bill – paid for by Hertfordshire County Council’s children’s services team – is expected to reach £77,000, based on the advertised room rates.
She said: ‘It’s been such a frustrating time. I just can’t understand why the Home Office hasn’t done anything until now and taken so long to sort this out.
‘We’ve been here in this hotel for well over two years now and it must be costing a fortune – all this money has been wasted.
‘All we’ve ever wanted is the chance to get on with our lives and for me to get another job and pay our own way in this country.’
Home Office rules state the anyone who has indefinite leave in a passport that is lost, stolen or expired, or anyone who has no proof of their indefinite leave status, can have their leave transferred to a biometric residence permit (BRP).
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘We have reviewed Miss Wanjiru’s case and will issue her with a biometric residence permit in the next week.
‘She was unable to secure this before because she was unable to provide sufficient proof that she had a stamp in her original passport and since the document was issued 15 years ago it was difficult to track down the paperwork.’
They added: ‘All visa applications are considered on their individual merits and in line with the Immigration rules.
‘The onus is on the individual to provide the required evidence to support their application.’
Hertfordshire County Council spokesman said: ‘We can’t comment on individual cases but we can confirm there are a small number of families in Hertfordshire who are awaiting decisions about their legal status and their ability to remain in the country.
‘The local authority has a responsibility under the Children’s Act to make sure that any children involved have their needs met and sometimes that involves funding their accommodation and living expenses.’
– Daily Mail