Irene Clennell, a grandmother from County Durham, was forced onto a plane last Sunday (26 February) with just minutes to say goodbye to her family.
Irene is a friend of ours, who contacted Migrant Voice last year to tell her story. At that time, it was a story of inflexible bureaucracy. Irene had jumped through hoops to complete complex application processes, only to be told on more than one occasion that she’d been provided with the wrong form. Finally, her leave to remain was revoked.
A few weeks later, without warning, she was seized and removed to Dungavel detention centre in Scotland – which the Home Office had recently backtracked over promises to close. She received support from Migrant Voice, from solicitors and detainee support groups, from her community and from well-wishing members of the public.
It wasn’t enough to stop four border officers putting her on a flight to Singapore on Sunday, without recourse to legal support. She has since spoken of the humiliating experience of being restrained, accused of being a risk of violence and treated like a criminal.
This case marks a new low for our out-of-touch system. Irene has British children and grandchildren, cares for her sick British husband, and has contributed more here than her country of birth.
This is the human cost of a political push for arbitrary migration targets which don’t take real life into account.
Irene will continue to challenge this inhumane decision. For the sake of Irene and many like her, the Home Office need an urgent rethink of family migration rules.
We need a system that’s responsive to real people.
And we need a less toxic debate on migration. Migrant voices aren’t represented in nearly 90% of debates about us.
You only need to look at the crowdfunding campaign for Irene – which has raised significantly more than its target, and over £36k already – to know that there is a compassionate majority in every community in Britain.