A FORMER midwife with the Church Mission Society (CMS) in Africa
was planning to return there lastweek for what she thought could be
her last chance to see her foster daughter.
Despite a serious heart condition, Elizabeth Swarbrick, 69,
wanted to visit Angela Apolot because the UK Border Agency had
banned Ms Apolot from coming to Miss Swarbrick's home in Garstang,
near Preston, Lancashire.
Ms Apolot, 31, has been to the UK many times since she was five,
and lived with Miss Swarbrick for nine years while she attended
school here, but the Agency refused her latest visa request, saying
that she lied in the application. She was punished with a ten-year
ban on future applications.
Ms Apolot and her supporters say that she misunderstood the
questionnaire, but even an intervention by Miss Swarbrick's MP, Ben
Wallace, failed to shift the agency's opinion.
"The official response was that the decision could not be
overturned", Miss Swarbrick said. "One is left feeling helpless,
angry, and frustrated at the complete refusal of anyone to look at
the case and see that we are telling the truth. They are calling us
liars. Angela has been visiting me regularly since she was five
years old, and has never breached her visa conditions."
The problem goes back to 2005 when Miss Swarbrick had heart
bypass surgery. Ms Apolot applied for a visa so that she could help
her convalesce, but it was refused. "In my letter of support, I
said she was coming to care for me, but they are not allowed to do
any work, paid or otherwise," Miss Swarbrick said. "I said it was
like a daughter coming to look after her mother, but they wouldn't
have it. They told her she could not appeal, but must reapply. She
did, but was refused again. But when I said she was just coming on
holiday, they granted the visa.
"Three years ago, Angela applied for another visit, and in
response to the question: 'Have you ever been refused a visa?' she
answered 'No'. In her mind, because the previous visa had been
granted, it had not been refused. However, the authorities judged
her to have lied, and she has been barred from requesting a visa
for ten years - during which time I could well be dead.
"We are very close, and she should be allowed to come. She is a
very bright girl, but in Uganda there is no access to anyone to
talk to about her case."
Miss Swarbrick worked on a project targeting high death-rates
among premature babies at Ngora Hospital, near Serote, in eastern
Uganda from 1969 until 1975, when President Idi Amin banished
foreigners. She subsequently made several return visits for the
CMS, including work on AIDS projects.
In 1982, Ms Apolot was abandoned as a premature baby at Ngora,
and later adopted by one of the staff who had saved her life.