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Visa delay for man suffering from flesh-eating disease

By Claire Weir

An American man whose face was ravaged by a flesh-eating disease is still waiting to hear if he can remain with his family in Northern Ireland, seven months after his application was sent to the Home Office.

Tim Mulvaney (41), who lives in the Hazelbank area of Londonderry, has undergone plastic surgery, is wheelchair bound, and had skin grafted from his thigh to his face to cover a hole in his left cheek after he was struck with Necrotizing Fascitis following an accident.

His lawyer said she is "extremely disappointed" that the family is still waiting for news after sending their most recent application in January.

New Yorker Tim was a promising gridiron football player and musician who recorded three albums and performed with rock legends Judas Priest.

Originally from the Bronx, he moved to Derry to be with partner Fiona Canning and their daughter, Kayla, in June 2003.

Four months later, he was knocking out a wall when the claw hammer shot back and hit him on his sinuses, activating the deadly Necrotizing Fascitis bacteria, which began eating his face and left him in a coma.

One of the world's few survivors of the flesh-eating bug, he has struggled to rebuild his life with his family, surviving on just £100 a week, because, as a non-resident he is not entitled to certain benefits and is restricted from working.

However, the family is still waiting to hear of the Home Office's decision.

His partner Fiona Canning said yesterday: "We are at the end of our tether.

"We haven't had oil for the past two months and we have a six- year-old girl to think about.

"I want to work, I want to get tax credits, I hate owing money to people, but because of this situation this is the mess I am stuck in. We have tried to do things by the book, do they want me to go out and work illegally and get fined?"

Mr Mulvaney's solicitor Anna Morvern has said that a delay in processing his application was proving very stressful for the family.

"The Law Centre put in an application to the Home Office in January, asking for Mr Mulvaney to be given leave to remain on the basis of his family life with his partner, daughter and extended family in Derry and because his medical team is here," she said.

"His surgeons provided expert evidence in support of our application as to the extent of his illness and care needs.

"We asked for the application to be processed quickly.

"The Home Office wrote to Mr Mulvaney's MP, Mark Durkan on 2 May 2008, to say that 'cases are normally dealt with in turn unless there are compelling, compassionate or other exceptional reasons for doing otherwise'.

"The Law Centre replied to the Home Office calling for urgent consideration of this case to allow Mr Mulvaney to access public funds and enable his whole family to enjoy a decent and human standard of living.

"We pointed out that the case could hardly be more compassionate. It is extremely disappointing that we have to date received no response to this letter.

"This bureaucratic delay leaves this family in a very stressful and precarious situation when they are already facing the difficulties of managing a very serious illness."

Sinn Fein MLA Martina Anderson is also backing the family.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said that they do not comment on individual cases but said that the UK Borders Agency would "not seek to remove anyone with an application or appeal outstanding."

Belfast Telegraph


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