Selhurst Community pastor fights to stay in UK
A church congregation is fighting the deportation of a gospel singer discovered to have been in the country illegally for more than a decade.
Oliver Ashley, of Whitehorse Road, Selhurst, has released 20 gospel albums first came to the UK in October 2001 to visit his wife,
But he failed to return to his native Jamaica by April 2002 when his tourist visa expired because his wife of 21 years, Suzette, was already working as a nurse.
She was granted indefinite leave to remain two years ago, but the 55-year-old had two applications for indefinite leave to remain refused last year and was sent to Dover Immigration Removal Centre, where he has been detained since May.
Mr Ashley, who won the Jamaica Gospel Song Contest in 1991, said: "I came to visit my wife, but I didn't know what to do to legalise myself.
"After my first application I was signing in at an immigration centre in Croydon, but now I have been snatched away from my wife.
"They have given me three tickets to go home but I have appealed. I know I overstayed but I am married to my wife, we should be together and I am fighting for that, I am now appealing to the High Court, it is my last hope."
Supporters of the singer, who is also a pastor at the Taste of Glory Apostolic ministry in Camberwell, described him as a "pillar of the community" and say he should be pardoned because of his voluntary work in south London, including helping combat knife and gun crime.
Members of the church congregation have written letters of support for him to be allowed to stay.
Danny Ofori-Akuffo, who is an assistant pastor at the church, said: "He should not have stayed, but he has helped so many young people through his preaching.
The man is not preaching hate, he is preaching for people to change.He has gone against the rules, but his wife is here and allowed to stay.
"It is really unfair, everyone has made a mistake in their life at some point. His absence has affected the congregation, no one expected it to happen. Sometimes we have to be sensible when we are dealing with human beings."
A spokesman for the Home Office said Mr Ashley was due to be deported on Wednesday, September 4 but declined to comment on his individual case.
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