via Atterbell Maplanka faces deportation to Zimbabwe after weight gain | Daily Mail Online 17 September 2015
A Zimbabwean father of four is facing deportation because he has gained so much weight since coming to the UK that he no longer looks like his passport photo.
Atterbell Maplanka, 36, moved to the UK in 2000, when he was just ten stone, but has almost doubled in size since.
Mr Maplanka, who lives in Eastbourne, East Sussex, now weighs nineteen stone, and his appearance has changed so much that border officials barred him from re-entering the country.
He was on his way back from his mother’s funeral in Zimbabwe earlier this month when he was pulled aside by guards at Heathrow, who doubted that he was the same man.
They sent him to a holding centre near the airport, where he is being detained as his distraught wife tries to secure his release.
Mr Maplanka, who works as a housing officer in Eastbourne, said: ‘I did not believe what they were saying – I thought it was a distasteful joke’.
Speaking from Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre, he said: ‘At first I thought I just had to prove to these guys who I was and I thought it was going to be a matter of finger prints, but when they took me away I could not believe it and I broke down and cried.’
Both Mr Maplanka’s passports include fingerprints, but the Home Office said it does not store its own fingerprint records for more than 10 years, so has nothing to compare it to.
Mr Maplanka, who works as a housing officer, was given indefinite leave to remain in the UK in 2003, and the documentation was attached to his Zimbabwean passport, issued in 1999.
The image on the passport shows his slender face years before his markedly different appearance today.
He was issued a new passport in 2014, with an up-to-date picture, and told to bring both passports to be allowed back into the UK.
However, the Home Office did not believe that the two documents show the same man, so started deportation proceedings.
Mr Maplanka has been allowed to remain at the holding centre after a legal challenge by RBM Solicitors.
His wife, Bibian, was at home waiting for her husband to return when she received a call from him and said: ‘Listen, love, I have been detained.’
Mrs Maplanka, 33, said: ‘First I just thought he was joking. I said to him “obviously we just lost your mum, I am not ready for this kind of joke”.
‘I was planning on preparing his favourite meal, I changed the linen so he would come home to a clean bed – he had not been home in two weeks.’
She added: ‘I was in shock, I hoped maybe it would all be sorted, he has lived in England for 15 years. He is a very kind and genuine man and now this is ruining our lives.’
The couple have two children Lilly-May, 6, and Prince, 14, and Mr Maplanka has two other children who live in Surrey from a previous relationship.
They originally knew each other in Zimbabwe, where Prince was born, but rekindled their relationship when Mrs Maplanka moved to the UK as a refugee.
His family is now locked in a legal battle to get Mr Maplanka home as he is currently being held at Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre near Heathrow.
If they fail, Mr Maplanka will be deported back to Zimbabwe.
He was due to be deported yesterday but a last minute legal challenge from the team at RBM Solicitors has given them more time to prepare a case and get him released on bail.
Mr Maplanka moved here to study and gained indefinite leave to remain in 2003 – moving to Eastbourne eight years ago be with his now-wife Bibian, also from Zimbabwe.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: ‘We do not routinely comment on individual cases and it would be inappropriate to do so while proceedings are ongoing.’