A woman who was separated from her family over an immigration technicality has spoken of her humiliation when border guards restrained her in public as she was removed from the UK.
Writing for the Guardian, Irene Clennell describes how security staff wrote down every word she said – and guarded the door while she went to the toilet – on her journey from Dungavel immigration removal centre to Singapore, via Edinburgh airport.
“The authorities have shown their willingness to treat foreign-born people as second class citizens, no matter how integrated they are, and worse, treat us like criminals,” she says.
“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.”
Clennell, 52, was removed from the UK on Sunday, after more than a month in detention. She previously had indefinite leave to remain in the country, but it lapsed after she spent years living in Singapore with her British husband and sons and later alone caring for her dying parents.
Allowed back in on a six-month visa in 2013, she had overstayed its terms while caring for her husband of 27 years, John, who last year had femoral artery bypass surgery and suffered a subsequent hernia.
Clennell’s case has become emblematic of the government’s hostile approach to migrants. Activists have told the Guardian that hers is far from an isolated case; people can be removed or deported even if they have effectively lived in the UK for practically their entire lives.
“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,” Clennell writes.
Outrage over the Home Office’s treatment of Clennell has spread worldwide, with newspapers as far afield as Spain, Singapore and the United States telling her story. Clennell, who is staying in a cramped apartment with her sister and three nephews, paid tribute to the help and support she had received from the public, who have raised more than £50,000 through a GoFundMe appeal to help fight her case.
“I am hoping to lodge an appeal against my deportation, which I believe has been conducted secretly, inappropriately and with little due process,” Clennell writes.
“Above all, I would appeal to all those who have made ‘migrant’ a term of abuse, to think about the human cost of their actions. Wanting to build a life and a family, and to be around people and places that you love, is not a crime.”
Irene Clennell tells of ‘deeply humiliating’ deportation from UK – The Guardian