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Satheesh Sankaragounder of Dover Physiotherapy Clinic fights to stay in Britain after Home Office refuses new visa

By Sam Lennon

Patients are fighting to stop their physiotherapist being deported.

The Home Office says it could ultimately send Satheesh Sankaragounder, 35, back to India saying he has failed to tot up enough points in the immigration system.

Officials have now refused to grant him leave to stay and he is appealing against that but could be thrown out if that and follow-up appeals and applications fail.

Dover Physiotherapy Clinic.Satheesh Sankaragounder. Picture: Paul Amos.
Dover Physiotherapy Clinic.Satheesh Sankaragounder. Picture: Paul Amos.

Supporters say his removal could lead to the loss of Dover's only private physiotherapy practice.

Patient David Ottley, 65, who was an immigration officer for 30 years, said: "In all my years in the job I saw people that were unqualified to enter who were allowed to come in.

"Yet here, when we have someone of clear benefit to the community and the country , both his stills and his contribution financially, I think it's a sin that we are treating him this way."

Mr Sankaragounder, 35, who runs the Dover Physiotherapy Clinic in the High Street, has been in this country since 2011 and has had previous permissions to stay in the UK renewed since.

His last leave to remain as an entrepreneur migrant, expired last September and the Home Office has now refused to renew it.

It is on two grounds, that he cannot prove investment of at least £50,000 in the UK and that he has not created enough employment.

It means he missed reaching the right score in a points system. It means he only scored 55 out of a possible 95.

Mr Sankaragounder argues that his accountant has given proof that the adequate sum has been invested and he has been unable to employ a second full time member of staff despite advertising for two years.

He needs to fill two physiotherapist vacancies but prospective candidates want to work in London for better money.

Mr Ottley said: "Had this physio chosen to work in London a second physio would have been easy to find.

"But he chose to fill the gaping hole in physiotherapy treatment in Dover and has been punished for it."

Patients have rallied round Sankaragounder. Picture: Paul Amos.
Patients have rallied round Sankaragounder. Picture: Paul Amos.

Satheesh Sankaragounder applied last August 24 to renew his Tier 1 entrepreneur visa. .

It expired last September 1 and the Home Office on May 3 wrote a letter telling him his new application had failed.

The letters says: "The Secretary of State (Sajid Javid) is not satisfied that you have met the full requirements to be awarded the minimum required points. "

Mr Sankaragounder has now appealed against this decision and can at least stay in Britain before a ruling is made on that.

The letter reminds him that staying in the UK unlawfully can mean prosecution and imprisonment, removal from the UK, bans from working and driving, inability to rent a home, refusal of benefits and denial of access to a bank account.

It says the Home Office Voluntary Departure Service can be contacted for help on returning home.

The letter says: "The team can discuss your return, obtain your travel document and send it to the port of departure, help with the cost of your tickets and, in some cases, provide other financial and practical assistance once you have returned to your home country."

A Home Office spokesman said: “Mr Sankaragounder has an application with the Home Office and it would be inappropriate to comment further while that is ongoing.”

Mr Sankaragounder says he has spent the last three years working in the UK without a day off.

He said: "I've got a number of patients, have invested a lot of money in this clinic and have made my home in Dover.

"I've had three years' hard work without a day off. I just want to carry on doing my job."

He has run his present Dover clinic for the past two-and-a-half years and also has a clinic in Hastings.

He sees 80 patients a week, working from 8am to 8pm, and says he has treated 850 patients since January 2017.

Satheesh Sankaragounder is threatened with deportation here with supporters Marilyn and David Ottley and Mythili Sateesh.
Satheesh Sankaragounder is threatened with deportation here with supporters Marilyn and David Ottley and Mythili Sateesh.

Mr Ottley, of Beauxfield, Whitfield, suffers from severe neck pain due to osteoarthritis.

His wife Marilyn, 76, is also a patient and has had severe back pain for 24 years.

She says: "Satheesh is the only person who has been able to make me feel comfortable.

They say if Dover Physiotherapy Clinic shout the nearest alternative place would be in Saltwood near Hythe.

Gillian Gough with her daughter Suzie Pope.Picture: Office of Charlie Elphicke.
Gillian Gough with her daughter Suzie Pope.Picture: Office of Charlie Elphicke.

Another patient is Suzie Pope 27,, of Folkestone Road, Dover.

She has an autoimmune condition that can create a paralysing condition.

Mr Sankaragounder is needed to help keep her arms and neck moveable.

As part of her complex condition she also had a cardiac arrest in March 2017.

Her mother Gill Gough said she then had to be flown to King's College Hospital and Mr Sankaragounder kept in regular contact and and treated her at home.

Ms Gough said:“The view of our consultant at King’s is that if it hadn’t been for the fact that we had a private physiotherapist my daughter would not be as well as she is at the moment.

She added: “Satheesh is an exceptional physiotherapist who is dedicated to his work.

" He is providing a much needed service in this community and further afield.

“He is willing to invest in the area and is hard working, providing employment for others and if there is anything we can do to support his visa application we would be more than willing to do so. To lose Satheesh would be devastating to us and a massive loss to the area.”

Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke is also fighting to keep Mr Sankaragounder in the country. He has written to Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes asking for a meeting to discuss the matter further.

He said; “Satheesh is a hard-working, caring and highly-skilled physio who goes the extra mile for his patients.

“He’s providing a much-needed and vital service to hundreds of people in Dover and Deal.

“I’m doing everything I can to help keep him here."

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