Husband of woman who died after deportation attempt gets apology

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Home Office acknowledges distress caused by text sent after Nancy Motsamai’s death

The husband of a woman who was accused of faking an illness to avoid deportation and who died five days later has received an apology from the Home Office for aspects of its handling of the case.

Nancy Motsamai, 35, collapsed at Heathrow airport on 7 March as she was escorted to a flight back to her native South Africa. An immigration official questioned whether she was really sick, and she and her husband were put into detention overnight. She died on 12 March.

Her husband, Fusi Motsamai, also 35, said the Home Office failed to promptly release her passport so that her body could be transported to her home country for burial. He said his distress was compounded two weeks after her death when the Home Office sent a text to her phone warning her of penalties if she did not attend an appointment at a Home Office reporting centre.

A letter of apology written on Wednesday, the same day the Guardian reported on the case, does not apologise for the fact that immigration officials questioned the veracity of Nancy’s illness, but does apologise for the time it has taken to send a copy of the passport and says it has now been dispatched.

The letter also refers to the text message, saying: “I appreciate that following her death it must have been distressing to receive this text.”

It says that “given the circumstances”, Fusi Motsamai’s requirement to report fortnightly to the Home Office will be suspended for three months.

The couple had lived and worked in the UK legally for more than a decade but experienced difficulties when they tried to renew their visa and were ordered to report regularly to Eaton House, a Home Office centre in Hounslow. When they attended on 7 March they were told they were to be forcibly removed from the UK that day and returned to South Africa.

Nancy complained of feeling unwell while the couple were at Eaton House, and at Heathrow several hours later she collapsed in a corridor. “An immigration official at the airport accused Nancy of faking her collapse to avoid being put on a plane,” her husband said.

Officials put the couple into detention. The next morning both of them were released. Nancy collapsed and died of a pulmonary embolism five days later.

Nancy’s body was eventually flown to South Africa on 5 April after the country’s high commission agreed to provide an emergency travel document.

Fusi Motsamai said: “I am still so angry inside about what the Home Office did. I believe they have apologised because of the media coverage. I just hope that my going public about this might stop the Home Office from treating others in this way.”

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