A Tesco checkout girl chosen to model for the supermarket’s autumn advertising campaign is in Britain illegally, it emerged today.
Fatou Cham, 32, who is from Gambia, West Africa, came to the UK in 1998 on a student visa but stayed after it expired in 2001.
Miss Cham, who works at the Tesco store, in Beckton, east London, was one of six staff members chosen from hundreds of hopefuls to model the Florence and Fred clothing range for an ad campaign used in women’s glossy magazines.
Next to a picture of Miss Cham modelling a blue dress and heels were the words: ‘Designed by F&F. Priced by Tesco. Modelled by Fatou, checkout number 6, Tesco, east London.’
Immigration officers questioned Miss Cham at her home in East Ham, east London, on Monday.
Miss Cham’s solicitor Jamil Trawally told the Sunday Mirror: ‘I am sure she was brought to the attention of the police because of the Tesco campaign.’
Miss Cham told the newspaper: ‘I came here for a better life and never set out to deceive anyone.
‘I just want to stay here with my family and be happy.’
She said she had been excited to be chosen for the Tesco campaign and had hoped it would bring her other opportunities.
‘Now it has all gone horribly wrong,’ she added.
Miss Cham initially came to the UK to study banking, economics and finance at London Metropolitan University.
Her mother and eldest child were allowed to join her in the UK in 2000. Her two other children were born in Britain.
Miss Cham applied to stay in the UK when her student visa ran out but was refused permission.
A further application in January this year was also turned down and she has appealed to the High Court.
When Miss Cham joined Tesco in 2002, overseas citizens just needed a national insurance number to work in the UK but since 2004 they have been required to have a valid work visa, although this did not apply to those already in employment.
A Tesco spokeswoman said: ‘As soon as we were made aware of this issue by the UK Border Agency we co-operated fully with the investigation.
‘We carried out all the checks required by law and the authorities have confirmed that they are satisfied that we followed the correct procedures.’
A UK Border Agency spokesman said: ‘The UK Border Agency expects people with no right to be here to return home voluntarily, if people do not we will remove them.
‘Last year we removed 5,400 foreign national prisoners, and more than 66,000 people were removed or returned home voluntarily.
‘Enforced removal is always a last option and the Agency always encourages those here illegally to return voluntarily.
‘Support is available offered through our Assisted Voluntary Return scheme, managed by the independent International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
‘This scheme offers a tailored package in kind to help people both prepare for their return and also with their resettlement back in their home country.’