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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 August 2005, 22:19 GMT 23:19 UK
Vigil for deported Malawi family
Verah Kachepa with children Tony and Upile
Verah Kachepa and her family moved to Weymouth five years ago
Dozens of supporters of a mother and her four children who have flown to Malawi after losing their legal battle to stay in the UK have held a vigil.

Home Office officials arrived on Thursday afternoon at the Dorset home of Verah Kachepa, 45, and her family to escort them to Heathrow Airport.

Some 200 people gathered outside their house to protest against their removal from Weymouth, their home since 1999.

The family claim they may face persecution when they return to Malawi.

Supporters of the family held a candlelit vigil at St Augustine's Church in Weymouth.

It's so stressful to uproot all your life like this. Upile (her 11-year-old daughter) is so young she doesn't understand
Verah Kachepa

Family friend Ralph Johnson said: "The vigil is a chance to get together to light candles and say prayers.

"They really should have been given discretionary leave to stay because they are quality people that we need here."

The family's MP Jim Knight said the Home Office had told him on Tuesday "there were no new grounds" to keep them in the country.

The Home Office has refused to comment directly on the case, but said: "When someone is found to have no legal basis to remain in the UK, we would seek to remove them."

Mrs Kachepa, and her children Natasha, 21, Alex, 17, Anthony, 16, and 11-year-old Upile flew from Heathrow airport to Harare, in Zimbabwe.

'So stressful'

They are due to board a connecting flight to Blantyre, in Malawi, on Friday.

Speaking from onboard the aircraft, Mrs Kachepa said: "The kids have really been in a bad way.

"Their friends just keep calling and checking how we are because they didn't get the chance to see them at the airport. "It's so stressful to uproot all your life like this.

Nothing can explain the pain that we've been through.
Verah Kachepa

The family first moved to Weymouth to join Mrs Kachepa's husband, a pharmacist, five years ago.

But in 2001 he returned to Malawi, leaving them behind to build their own lives.

Mrs Kachepa fears it would be dangerous for her family to return to Malawi because her husband is in a relationship with the powerful niece of a former president.

Before leaving her home Mrs Kachepa told the BBC: "Nothing can explain the pain that we've been through.

"I'm ashamed that another human being can do that to another human being."

'Grateful for support'

Daughter Natasha, who is engaged to soldier Tom Sanderson, said: "Weymouth is lovely with lovely people. It's really different here.

"When we came we were the only black family but we were accepted by the community and are loved by them and I'm very grateful to all those who have supported us."

The family, with supporters, travelled to Heathrow last month, but were unable to board their flight after immigration officials apparently failed to provide them with tickets and passports.

Hopes raised over Malawi family
19 Jul 05 |  Dorset

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