“I would definitely recommend anyone in my situation to come to the Cardinal Hume Centre. I had been trying for 10 years to get answers and security but I was going to the wrong places the whole time. I didn’t even know a place like this existed.”
In 2002, Tomasi left Fiji and his career as a policeman to bring his children to the UK. His wife had enlisted with the British army the previous year, hoping for a better future for their family. They were now entitled to join her at the barracks. However, Tomasi discovered that such a large change in circumstance and lifestyle can change a person, and the marriage broke down.
“I was kicked out of the barracks and left to fend for myself. There was no proper advice. I didn’t know what steps to take. I went to the army welfare officer but they couldn’t help at all because they didn’t know how to deal with this situation, it was new to them. Had I been a woman then they would have been able to take care of me, but they didn’t know what to do with a man who was separated from a female soldier. They just told me to leave. My visa was running out and my kids were in a vulnerable situation.”
“Then just as all this was happening my third son was born in 2004.”
For ten years, Tomasi didn’t stop trying to get the answers and security he so desperately needed. He went to solicitors and advice bureaus and made several home office applications. Tomasi moved around a lot during this time but he was fortunate that through kind friends and housesitting schemes he always managed to have a roof over his head.
Back home in Fiji, Tomasi had been a church minister so he tried to be active in the UK-based Fijian community. He established a church group and was able to get many young people involved: “From one household it grew to around 20. We stopped the young boys from drinking and taught them useful skills like driving. It was good for the whole family.”
Tomasi was determined to stay near his children but living in the UK with no visa is not without risk; he eventually spent three months in a detention centre. He feared he would be made to leave the country. However he was spared deportation by the Human Rights Act, which states “everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.” Deporting Tomasi from the country would have violated the human rights of a British citizen, Tomasi’s youngest child.
Tomasi was released from the detention Centre, empowered with the knowledge that he had a legal right to stay in the country with his children. He sought help from children’s charity CORAM, they assisted him with his custody case and referred him to the Cardinal Hume Centre for help with gaining leave to remain in the UK.
“When I first came to the Centre and met Philip I have to admit I thought this would be another place that wouldn’t be able to help me. I had so little hope left at that point. Then I thought everything happens for a reason, I have to put my heart into this. At my second meeting, Philip was already presenting me with things I was unaware of that would strengthen my case. He had really listened to me and understood my problem. He was asking me all the right questions and really fighting my case.”
Home office decisions can take a very long time. After two years of meeting with Tomasi, Philip has now managed to secure him a leave to remain for the next three years. Tomasi has found work with an events company and is able to focus on being a good dad to his children.
“We really need places like this, especially if you are a foreigner. We don’t know what doors to open. We don’t know our rights. The Centre tells you where to turn.”
Tomasi was told his situation was so unusual that he couldn’t be helped, but it isn’t unusual to us. Every day our advice and assessment team greet people just like him who are lost in the system and don’t know where to turn. Our unique service really does turn lives around.