Parents unite to keep their treasured caretaker in UK

Collingham Lady Hastings pupils Hollie, Olivia and Rosa Kirkman wear yellow ribbons in a plea for Portas Ongondo to stay in the UK. (S)
Collingham Lady Hastings pupils Hollie, Olivia and Rosa Kirkman wear yellow ribbons in a plea for Portas Ongondo to stay in the UK. (S)

A desperate last ditch bid is being made to stop a valued school caretaker from being deported.

Following a breakdown in his 34-year marriage Portas Ongondo, of Collingham, has lost two appeals against being sent back to Kenya and now faces separation from his three children.

The 55-year-old superintendant at Lady Hastings School has three sons - Emmanuel, 19, Gerald, 22 and Sylvester, 25, - but supporters claim the former UN worker would suffer greatly if separated.

Parent Claire Strachan said: “Those who know and understand Portas and his role within his family understand that the emotional and financial impact of Portas’ removal to Kenya would be significant for both him as a father and for his sons.”

An online petition of 388 signatures had been submitted to the Home Office and one supporter said: “Portas is a highly valued member of the local, school and church communities.

“Good parenting doesn’t stop being important when children reach their late teens/early twenties. In many ways it becomes more important as young people seek independence.

“The relationship between Portas and his sons is clearly very close and to take this away now would be wrong.”

Portas arrived in the UK in 2006, along with his three sons to support his wife who was working as a nurse.

Due to working for the UN in Kenya at the time, he travelled between there and the UK until joining his family in 2008 and was eventually allowed to stay in the UK as a dependent spouse.

“All my life I have been supporting the development of my boys with the prospect of high success for them and the family,” said Portas who has worked at Lady Hastings since 2009 as well as part-time at the Mercure Hotel in Wetherby.

“This motivation led me to leave my good and well-paying job of ten years with the United Nations to join my family in the UK.”

As well as a bleak emotional future, Portas faces the strong prospect of unemployment in his home country.

“I am now 55 years old which makes it extremely difficult for me to get a job in Kenya, where the unemployment rate is very high with thousands of young graduates jobless and living away from my family would have no meaning at all.”

“My present employment is fulfilling and allows me to use my experience and training as a teacher as nothing pleasures me more than participating in developing young people.”

In a renewed call, campaigners are asking people to wear yellow ribbons or display them outside their homes and businesses on Yorkshire Day.

Claire added: “We are asking everyone supporting the campaign to wear yellow ribbons (or anything yellow) on Yorkshire Day as a symbol of unity to show that Portas is an important part of our community here in Yorkshire and to demonstrate the strength of feeling about his right to remain here with his family in the UK.

“He is not only a central part of the school but the wider community and is someone who is proud to be here, and who we are all proud to know.”

Wetherby MP Alec Shelbrooke said he was aware of the case.

He added: “A significant number of my constituents in Collingham asked me to look into this issue and I have since been liaising closely with the school in relation to this application, which is currently under consideration by the Home Office.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “All applications are considered on their individual merits and in line with the Immigration Rules.”