An asylum seeker from Zimbabwe, who was hailed for his bravery after saving children from a house fire in which two adults died, is to be deported.

Robert Chilowa, 46, ran into a burning house in Withington, Manchester on 10 February and rescued two children from a fire which killed their grandparents Mohammed Awad (56) and Hasma (47). Another girl survived after jumping from a window.

Mr Chilowa, who was hospitalised for smoke inhalation following the blaze, received a letter from immigration officials on 1 March telling him it was safe for him to return home and must leave the UK within 12 days.

Mr Chilowa was also told all his benefits were being stopped and that if he needed help he could try the Red Cross, Salvation Army or religious organisations in the meantime.

"It is a slap in the face," said Mr Chilowa (quoted in The Telegraph). "Friends said, 'When are you going to see the Queen? When are you going to be knighted? I did a great job but now what they are saying is, 'Get lost.' It really broke my heart what I'm going through now. I did nothing wrong. I don't have a criminal record. Someone should have a heart."

Mr Chilowa, who fled Zimbabwe in 2001 leaving his wife and two children, has not said why he believes he would be in danger if he returned to Zimbabwe.

"I came here for political asylum," he told BBC News. "[Life] was very difficult. I left my son and my daughter and my family. There isn't any change [in Zimbabwe] at all… There are still sanctions."

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection and every case is assessed on its individual merits. If someone is found not to need our protection we expect them to leave the UK."

A petition demanding Mr Chilowa be allowed to stay in the country had been signed by almost 3,000 people as of 4 March.

Parsonage Road Manchester Robert Chilowa
Robert Chilowa rescued children from a fatal house fire in Parsonage Road, ManchesterGoogle streetview