The mother of 'X Factor' reject Gamu Nhengu did not wrongly claim tax credits, the family’s solicitor said today as the budding singer faced deportation to Zimbabwe.
The 18-year-old, eliminated from the ITV show at the weekend despite being a huge hit with fans, was told she must return to her homeland after her mother’s visa application was turned down.
Nokuthula Ngazana was allowed to stay in the UK while she studied at university and Nhengu was told she could remain in the country as her dependent.
But Ms Ngazana’s application to remain in the country was turned down following allegations she wrongly claimed working tax credits.
This was denied today by her solicitor Frances Farrell, who said the family “strongly refuted” the claims.
Ms Farrell told BBC Radio Five Live: “There was a slight error with the bank details and the Home Office led us to believe this was no longer a problem.
“I was fully expecting the application to be granted and then on Tuesday night the Home Office phoned my office after working hours and their representative said that the application was being refused because Nokuthula had claimed tax credits when she was not eligible to do so. This is disputed and no other reason was made for the refusal.
“Our client’s position is that she was advised by the Inland Revenue she was entitled to claim working tax credits as she was paying tax. It was all done absolutely above board.”
Ms Farrell said she had still not received the Home Office’s decision in writing and that details about the benefits claims were leaked to the press.
The solicitor said she was now seeking a judicial review and was told the family had a strong case.
Ms Farrell added: “It has caused my client, Gamu and her siblings all great distress. My client has had to take the children out of school and they have been under siege all day. It’s been horrendous for them.”
Nhengu and her family have been told they do not have a right of appeal and must leave the UK by their own accord or face deportation.
Nhengu’s controversial axing from the 'X Factor' caused a storm among viewers.
So far, more than 240,000 fans have signed up to a Facebook page called Gamu Should Have Got Through, protesting at the decision by judge Cheryl Cole to leave Nhengu out of the final 12.
At least one of the rejected contestants will be given a lifeline at the weekend as a “wild card” on Saturday night’s programme, although it is thought Nhengu will not be among them.
Show bosses have already denied suggestions Cole was influenced by visa issues.
A spokeswoman said: “We are supporting Gamu and her family during this difficult time.”
A UK Border Agency spokesman said: “The applications made by Ms Ngazana and her family were considered in line with the published immigration rules.
“Ms Ngazana’s application was refused as it did not meet all of the conditions for approval. Her family, who had applied as her dependants, were therefore also refused.
“Where people are found to have no right to remain in the UK, we expect them to leave voluntarily.”