Cham: "I came here for a better life and never set out to deceive anyone” 30th September 2009: A model and Tesco checkout worker who won a competition to become the face of the supermarket has been exposed as an illegal immigrant.
Fatou Cham, 32, from Gambia, was one of the six employees chosen as a "real woman" to model Tesco’s Florence and Fred clothing range for an ad campaign used in women’s glossy magazines.
After a study showed customers prefer brands that use normal-sized girls, Tesco ditched professional models in favour of "real women".
Ms. Cham worked at the Tesco store, in Beckton, east London.
Next to a picture of Ms. 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.”
Ms. Cham, the single mum of three, has already featured in magazines.
She came to Britain in 1998 on a student visa to study at London Metropolitan University in Holloway, north London. Ms. Cham joined Tesco in 2002 when foreign nationals only needed a national insurance number to gain employment.
The rules have now changed and Ms Cham now requires a valid work visa. Her applications have so far been turned down and she had appealed to the High Court.
Immigration officers questioned Miss Cham at her home in East Ham, east London, on 21st September.
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."
Tesco have dropped Ms Cham from the ads. A spokesman said: "As soon as we were made aware of this issue by the UK Border Agency we co-operated fully with the investigation."
She added: "We carried out all the checks required by law and the authorities have confirmed that they are satisfied that we followed the correct procedures."
Ms. 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."
Ms. 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."
The model who was excited to have been chosen for the Tesco campaign had hoped it would bring her other opportunities. "Now it has all gone horribly wrong," she said.