When Chimezie and Robert first met in Newcastle city centre, they could not possibly imagine the agony they would be put through over the next seven years.
Chimezie first came to the UK from Nigeria with a visa to study at Newcastle College, and was planning to study Health Psychology at Bedfordshire University when she became romantically involved with Pavel Gabco, her future fiancé. When the couple sought out vicars to begin the marriage process, they were reported to the Home Office for not being British and allegedly intending to carry out a sham marriage. This issue had faced widespread media coverage following the jailing of an east London vicar charged with carrying out hundreds of sham marriages from 2007 to 2010.
President of the Newcastle University Stand Up To Racism Society, Anna Kerr has this to say: “The fact that Chimezie Emeronye is facing deportation simply for wanting to extend and further enhance her degree and career opportunities is abhorrent and is a blatant example of the structural and systematic racism which is so deeply embedded within this government”.
Chimezie was arrested in January 2011.
It was after this first arrest that Chimezie, on bail, met Robert of Benwell (East Newcastle), and the couple married in 2012 after a nine-month long relationship. The very same year was Chimezie’s trial, which heard she entered UK lawfully and had not cost the taxpayer, having paid her students debts. Robert thinks the court favoured the prosecution, claiming statements from the diocese were presented despite Gabco’s statement being disallowed due to his absence.
The question of where Gabco is, and why he is not being looked for, has been left unanswered. Chimezie has reportedly lost touch with him and he is yet to appear in court. As the other half in this supposed crime, many are wondering why the police have not made more of an effort to find him.
Kerr states “it’s shameful that the police have made few attempts to arrest the man Chimezie was going to marry and have instead poured all their efforts into trying to ruin this young black student’s future.” A future that after this trial included 18 months in prison.
When Robert wanted to visit her, he had to pass through as many as six checkpoints. This was the environment that Chimezie was subjected to when the alleged sham marriage did not even take place.
Although Chimezie has been released, her situation is no more secure. She is not legally allowed to work, claim benefits or open a bank account, so must rely solely on Robert’s income and Universal Credit. She also has to go to Middlesbrough every two weeks to a reporting centre where they have tried to detain her.
Additionally, she is not entitled to free treatment on the NHS, and is expected to pay £4344 for maternity care, a figure that accounts for the birth of just one of the couple’s two daughters.
Chimezie claims they have not been given any indication as to what they can do to prove that the marriage was legitimate. Visas have been refused on claims that the paperwork has not been filled out correctly, or payment has been missing (despite the Home Office later refunding it). Robert believes they rely on deferring questions that they do not want to answer so they become lost in the bureaucracy and forgotten about.