SALFORD CATHEDRAL is supporting a campaign against the deportation of two members of its congregation.
The Home Office is trying to send Catherine Otokhina, 34, and her younger sister Sandra, 27, back to their home nation of Nigeria.
But the sisters say that deportation could mean death, because Sandra suffers from sickle cell disease and arthritis and she fears that she could not access the necessary treatment back home.
Two others of their siblings who also suffer from the condition have already died in Nigeria.
Both the sisters originally came to the UK to study, but they have been refused permission to remain in Britain after completing their degrees.
Deporting the Otokhinas would be a “travesty”, the Revd Gavin Landers, assistant priest of the Roman Catholic cathedral, said last month.
“If [the Home Office] really did know the situation which Catherine and Sandra are in, in this particular case, it would be an absolute travesty to have them deported because they contribute so much,” he said. “They are good, wholesome people, good neighbours and good friends.”
It would be “horrendous” to force Sandra to face her medical condition back in Nigeria, he added.
The sisters, who have worshipped at the cathedral for nine years, are part of the hospitality team and the local Legion of Mary, a group which assists in evangelism and social initiatives in the parish. Catherine is also a member of the choir.
“The situation is terribly unfortunate,” Sister Brenda Mattison DC, the parish sister, said. “It’s quite devastating for the community here.”
Their local MP, Labour’s Rebecca Long-Bailey, has also backed the campaign to keep them in Manchester, telling the local newspaper the sisters were not only “valued community members” but also require “lifesaving treatment” from the NHS.
A petition demanding that the Home Office abandon the deportation states Catherine “devotes all of her spare time and energy to voluntary work to for her local community in Salford”, making regular trips to the prison chaplaincy and the food bank, alongside singing in the Cathedral choir.
When the Church Times went to press on Wednesday, more than 2,500 people had signed a petition launched by the Cathedral’s choirmaster, Daniel Bath.
A Home Office spokesman said that they did not routinely comment on individual immigration cases, but he said that all claims were considered “sensitively, appropriately and on their individual merits”.