I think all except the selfish among us can state that the deportation processes around the globe are fucked up. Everyday there seems to be a tale of woe about a family being split up, children missing a parent or spouses being torn apart. Recently, I was having brunch with a friend and he brought to light a special case that ended in tragedy.
He spoke of a law in Briton, where they can deport one spouse, of a born citizen, if that born citizen does not make enough money. This is the spouse visa minimum income requirement which doesn’t allow sustainable visas to the spouse of anyone who earns less than £18,600 because they have deemed it causes “significant hardship.” They did not think to take into account those suffering from… well any sort of hardship.
Enter 53 year old Irene Clennell who is originally from Singapore. She migrated to the UK in the 1980s and was allowed a permanent visa when she married her husband. She lost this, however, when she went to Singapore to care for her dying parents. She has been living on visitors visas for the past few years, but that time is at an end.
To make matters worse, her husband is very unwell. She has acted as her husband’s sole carer after he, “…suffered several serious illnesses, including an arterial bypass and complications from a hernia. She is horrified at the idea of him being left alone” (1). He is unable to meet the monetary requirement.
Well, unfortunately, that time as come. Last year, she was informed that she would need to arrange transportation back to Singapore. She spent the next three months traveling to and from an immigration center. One day, she went in for a routine appointment and found herself detained and driven to a detention center in Scotland for the lack of an effort to move back to Singapore.
She has no life in Singapore. Her husband, children, grandchildren and their life are all in Briton and she married all those 27 years ago under the impression that she would be allowed to freely live that life.
She is fighting in any way she can, however, cannot afford the fees or the legal aid. “My husband is sick and I’m not entitled to work,” she said, “so if I don’t get legal aid I won’t be able to put in an application” (1).
She was spirited out of the country the following Sunday with no plans and very little money in her pocket. The life she had built for nearly thirty years was ripped from her grasp simply because her husband was sick and couldn’t not work. She went to Singapore to care for her now dead parents, to return to Briton to her dying husband, only to be taken away with now power to help him or their family.
Of her trip to Singapore she states:
During my removal from Britain I was treated like a terrorist: I was restrained by the arms, my every word written down, and there were guards on the door when I went to the toilet. This happened in full view of the public in Edinburgh airport,and was deeply humiliating. The border authorities even claimed that I – a woman on my own – posed a risk of violence. And they ticked a form to note the media interest and public sympathy in my case, as if I was to be punished for speaking out.
When I arrived in Singapore I was given a number for people who were supposed to be able to help, but they were in Thailand. I was told I would be met at the airport by someone who would assist with accommodation and settlement – this never happened. During all this time, my family back home were being put through confusion and distress that they never deserved.
Everything that took place last weekend was the latest step in a long story of an immigration system that provides no adequate support to claimants, and does its best to treat honest people like liars and thieves. For some time now, I have filled out long and complex application forms repeatedly, only to be told that I have been given the wrong form or that the application is invalid for some technical reason (2).
Hopefully she will find her way home. Hopefully the countries of the world will realize that there is more than just black and white when it comes to laws and to peoples lives. Hopefully they realize the work they will have to do to make this “justice” work, instead of just signing a piece of paper and moving on with it. People are a complicated business. Have compassion. Otherwise… what’s the point?
- Dugan, Emily. “A Woman is Facing Deportation after Living in Briton for Nearly 30 Years.” Buzzfeed. 1 February 2017. Web. 29 March 2017. <https://www.buzzfeed.com/emilydugan/a-woman-is-facing-deportation-after-living-in-britain-for-ne?utm_term=.aj3o4qX4QG#.of0N4G94We>.
- Clennell, Irene. “I was forcibly deported from the UK like a terrorist…” The Guardian. 2 March 2017. Web. 29 March 2017. <https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/02/irene-clennell-deported-uk-terrorist>.
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