Most claims and counter-claims about migration are based on contentious statistics and superficial generalisations. Migration, however, is about individuals and on a personal level, politics look very different.
Take the case of Irene Clennell.
She has been informed that she has no grounds to stay in the UK. But her husband, John, is British, she is mother to two adult sons born in the UK and her only grandchild lives in the UK.
Clennell met her husband in London in the late ‘80s. When pregnant with her first child she wanted to be closer to her mother-in-law in County Durham, which she also decided would be a good place to bring up her children: “It’s peaceful, and everybody knows each other.”
Now 52, she is the primary carer for her husband who has recently undergone a vascular bypass and hernia treatment: “John has worked all his life and never relied on income support, until now, because of illness.”
For 26 years she and the rest of the family travelled a lot between the UK and Singapore, and she spent long periods of time in the Asian island state - caring for her parents. Her mom had cancer and died in 1999 and her dad died in 2008 after a long illness.
Irene Clennell received her permanent resident status when she married, but subsequently lost her right to stay as a permanent resident on the grounds of multiple absences from Britain – despite her British husband and family.
This meant she was required to apply for a visa every time she wanted to return to her family in the UK.
On several occasions she was forced to stay in or return to Singapore because her UK visa applications were refused or she was refused entry.
Her husband is here, her kids are here, Britain is signed up to international agreements on family life, yet she is being told she has no right to be here: “I feel like I have missed out on my kids, and now I have a chance to see my granddaughter growing up I don’t want to miss out on her.”
She is also close to her in-laws, friends and neighbours in Durham. They all love her speciality dish: Singapore curry puffs made with a special curry, chicken, potatoes and deep fried.
When she is not taking care of her husband and cooking for friends and family, Clennell enjoys spending time with her two dogs.
Clennell, has a background in business and feels she can contribute to the community if allowed.
“My family is in the UK. Everything I own is here,” she says, but the Home Office enforcement agency has told her to make arrangements to return to Singapore, or she could be placed in a detention centre at any time.
She fears being detained and deported to Singapore, where she has no family ties or support. And she especially fears being separated from husband John, now when he needs care.
“Just because I wasn’t born in this country,” she says, “that doesn’t mean you can chase me out, thinking I have no one here.”
Migrant Voice believes Irene Clennell is one of many people unjustly affected by immigration policies that are dividing families and destroying lives. Families belong together.