Although the a judge ruled the deportation unlawful , a Zimbabwean dad could be deported from the UK after being told he did not look like the photo in his passport – because he gained NINE stone.
Father-of-four Atterbell Maplanka was arriving at Heathrow Airport having visited his native Zimbabwe for his mother’s funeral when he was pulled to one side by border control officers.
Mr Maplanka had just handed his passport over when the officers stopped him and told him they did not believe he was the person in the passport.
The 36-year-old has put on nine stone since the photo was taken, but now faces deportation despite having lived in the UK for 15 years.
He also has a wife and four children in Eastbourne, but is forced to travel with two passports, his expired one which carries the mark indicating his indefinite “leave to remain” status and his new one, issued last year.
Mr Maplanka has gained the nine stone since the first passport was issued in 1999 and border control did not believe he was the same person, despite seeing the new passport too.
He was initially held in a detention before being released on bail.
The 36-year-old said: “I was already very emotional and I was looking forward to getting home so when the officer stopped me I was in a daze.
“I did not believe what they were saying – I thought it was a distasteful joke.
“I was absolutely devastated.
“At first I thought I just had to prove to these guys who I was and I thought it was going to be a matter of finger prints, but when they took me away I could not believe it and I broke down and cried.”
He added: “On the phone my daughter was in tears. I said ‘don’t worry I will be home before you know it’.
“I am a housing officer so I work a lot with mental health and for the first time in my life I started to understand the despair that makes people say they want to commit suicide.”
Mr Maplanka is well known in Eastbourne, works as a housing officer at Family Mosaic in Bexhill.
He was due to be deported yesterday but a last minute legal challenge from the team at RBM Solicitors has given them more time to prepare a case and get him released on bail.
Mr Maplanka moved here to study and gained indefinite leave to remain in 2003 – moving to Eastbourne eight years ago with his now-wife Bibian, also from Zimbabwe.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases and it would be inappropriate to do so while proceedings are ongoing.”