‘Our life was here’ - how one family fought deportation to turn their lives around
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020
Ten years after winning their fight to remain in the UK, a family has reflected on the triumphs and tragedies which have underlined their past decade in Norwich.
In 2010, Dr Scholastica, a single mother originally from Tanzania, was preparing to begin a PHD.
Dr Scholastica had lived in Norwich with her two sons for more than nine years.
Her youngest, Sev Mokake, was just three when he moved to the country and said he had always considered himself "more British than African".
Dr Scholastica's husband had died two years before, leaving her to raise their two teenage sons, aged 13 and 17, single-handedly.
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At night, she worked a cleaning job to support the family, and by day she studied for her Masters degree at the UEA.
Her oldest son, Gabriel Mokake, had just been accepted to Guildford School of Acting, one of the UK's leading drama schools, and was looking forward to launching his acting career on the West End.
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But a couple of weeks after Dr Scholastica's graduation, the family were told they were facing deportation, due to a filing error on a student visa.
If their appeal was unsuccessful they would have had just 10 days to leave the country.
She said: "Our life was here. We had already passed through so much and never asked for benefits. If we went back to Tanzania my boys wouldn't be who they are today."
On hearing the family's predicament, the local community successfully campaigned for their right to stay, lobbying Parliament and raising money for legal costs.
A lot has changed for the family since their brush with deportation.
Dr Scholastica completed her PHD, and is now a church leader and social worker, and helps refugees recover from trauma.
Gabriel Mokake made it to the West End, most recently taking on a principal role in the award-winning musical Hamilton.
Sev is a successful personal trainer and has just opened his own gym, BAS Training.
The 23-year-old said: "School was hard because we never had much money, but mum always found a way. I don't want people to feel pity because of what we've gone through. Wanting to change people's minds about what young black men can do has always been my motivation. We're lucky we've always had people around us lifting us up."