Home Office overturns Zimbabwean housekeeper's Northern Ireland wedding ban
A Zimbabwean housekeeper who mounted an emergency High Court challenge to being denied a visitor's visa for a close friend's wedding in Belfast is now set to attend the service.
Lettywin Satichi is due to fly to Northern Ireland after the Home Office agreed to retake its decision and grant her the entry permit, her lawyers said.
The 44-year-old widow, who has worked for the groom's family since 2000 and helped to raise him, is expected to arrive in time for the wedding on Saturday.
But her solicitor, Sarah Symington of John J Rice & Co, claimed officials who initially refused the visa showed no compassion.
She said: "It appears that the Home Office on a regular basis provides a hostile environment and a 'cold house' for prospective visitors with an African passport."
Ms Satichi is employed by the parents of the groom - Irish citizens living in Zimbabwe.
Earlier this month she was informed that her application for a visitor's visa to enter the UK for the wedding and to remain as a tourist for 14 days had been denied.
According to Ms Satichi's legal team the grounds given for the refusal were that her circumstances in Zimbabwe were not sufficiently favourable to cause her to return.
They issued judicial review proceedings, arguing that the decision was unlawful and unreasonable.
However, counsel for the Home Office later told the court an agreement has been reached in the case.
With the challenge resolved, Ms Symington said she was delighted the Home Office has retaken its decision and granted a permit to the housekeeper.
"She awaits receipt of the visa to be able to travel in time for the wedding," the solicitor said.
"Our client is thrilled to arrive in Belfast within the coming week to celebrate this happy occasion with her friends."
Ms Symington went on to claim UK Border officials often provide "arbitrary and demeaning" grounds for rejecting applications made by those seeking to be reunited with family or to see friends.
Pointing to the alleged reasons for initially refusing a visa to Ms Satichi, she said: "The implication, which is not terribly subtle, is that life in Africa, whatever your circumstances, is one to be fled."
She added: "The obvious question remains as to how many other foreign nationals are applying for such visas and are being refused on similar spurious grounds.
"We suggest that the Home Office need to re-examine their decision making process and make changes to avoid court proceedings being brought which ultimately form a substantial pull on the public purse."
Belfast Telegraph Digital