A woman living in the UK who has been married to a British man for 27 years has been forcibly removed from the country.
Irene Clennell, who made headlines when she was placed in immigration detention, was deported to Singapore on Sunday.
Clennell first arrived in London in 1988 and married John, a British man, two years later. They settled in County Durham and had two children together. She now has one grandchild.
Her sister-in-law Angela confirmed to the Northern Echo that Clennell had been deported. She said she had been subject to “insensitive and unfair government rules” and that Irene’s husband, her brother, was seriously ill.
A Go Fund Me page to raise money for her legal fees passed £8,000 after the news broke that she had been deported
On the page, Angela said: “For 30 years, my sister-in-law Irene has lived in Britain after arriving here from Singapore. She has a British husband, two wonderful British children and a granddaughter she dotes upon. She has worked hard for those 30 years raising her family and being an important and beloved member of the local community.
“Without her to look after him, we’re all worried for him, and to rip apart a family after 30 years of happiness seems so unfair. Irene has never claimed benefits in the UK. John has worked his entire adult life. We need to fight to keep them together so he has someone to care for him, and so she can stay with her family, where her home is.
“Irene has nowhere to go in Singapore, both her parents have passed away – her whole life is here in Britain.”
Clennell was given indefinite leave to remain in the UK after marrying John in 1990 but spent periods back in Singapore caring for her parents before they died.
The government’s spousal visa system requires the British partner to prove earnings of at least £18,600 and the couple being able to show long stretches of uninterrupted time living in the UK.
Clennell lost her leave to remain as the time she spent out of the country when her parents were dying was too long. She has made repeated attempts – in Singapore and back in the UK – to re-apply for permission to live with her husband.
Her last visitor visa expired last year and she was sent to a detention centre in Scotland after a routine appointment with immigration service in mid-January.
Clennell told Buzzfeed, who she spoke to on the plane before it took off, that she had just £12 in her pocket, no change of clothes and nobody to stay with in Singapore.
Although she was allowed to phone her husband with the news, she was so distressed, she was barely able to speak. “I didn’t even get to say goodbye properly,” she said. “I was just in tears, I wasn’t able to say much.
“They just came to get me this morning and said they’ve already given me a chance. Now I’m on the plane. Four people are taking me to Singapore. I don’t know what I’ll do when I land. I called my sister [in Singapore] and she said she can’t put me up, so I just don’t know.”
Her husband told the website that he had no idea the deportation was going to happen despite having visited her on Friday.
He said: “I think it was done deliberately so we couldn’t contact a solicitor or go through the courts. I think it’s trickery to come on a Sunday when you can’t contact your lawyer … I need people to see what these people have done.”
Angela Clennell told the Northern Echo that the family had been unable to intervene because the flight took place on a Sunday. “I made several attempts to ring immigration and solicitors,” she said. “But nowhere was open. They just came and removed her without prior warning. It’s unbelievable. It’s appalling. But we are still hoping to get Irene back home.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “All applications for leave to remain in the UK are considered on their individual merits and in line with the immigration rules. We expect those with no legal right to remain in the country to leave.”
Woman deported from UK despite being married to Briton for 27 years – The Guardian