"I have never welcomed the weakening of family ties by politics or pressure" - Nelson Mandela.
"He who travels for love finds a thousand miles no longer than one" - Japanese proverb.
"Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence." - Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
"When people's love is divided by law, it is the law that needs to change". -
David Cameron.

Friday, 1 November 2013

An account of the detention of a spouse of a British citizen.

Before reading the account below, get yourself up to date by digesting the following :
David and Dee's story as of September 2013 : http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/david-dee-home-office-has-appealed-high.html
'Dee is in a detention centre tonight' : http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/british-citizen-davids-canadian-wife.html
Dee's refusal letter : http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/update-on-david-and-dee-previously.html
'Refusing entry to the UK as a visitor' : http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/refusing-entry-to-uk-as-visitor-httpwww.html
Interview with David : http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/minimum-wage-visa-rules-keep-man-and.html

Now read on...

My Nightmare with UKBA
(a.k.a. An Early Halloween Tale)
 by Dee

A little background. David and I have been married six years. We started our married life in Canada, but due to issues with Dave's children and his PR application, he needed to move back to the UK in February 2011. The intention at that point was to ensure my adult children were settled before joining Dave in the UK.

As a Canadian national, I do not require a pre-arranged visa to enter the UK, and in May 2012, I arrived in the UK and was given a six-month visitor visa on arrival. We intended for a visa for me to be able to stay longer during this time. Six weeks or so later, on the 9tth July 2012, the Immigration rules changed. We contacted UKBA, who told us that I could no longer apply from within the UK and would have to leave at the end of my visitor visa or before, and in November 2012, I returned to Canada.

In March 2013, I applied for a Spouse visa under the new rules via Worldbridge Canada, knowing that David doesn't meet the minimum income requirement but that if refused, we'd appeal under Article 8 as suggested by others we'd spoken with. I attended my appointment to have my biometrics taken, to be told that I could only put a travel date no longer than three months after applying. As I'd put in a travel date for August 2013, I was told to return for biometrics in May, which I did. After a last-minute panic because the British Consulate in Toronto had missed the last two pages of my application when sending the application back to Worldbridge for this second biometric appointment, I returned home to wait.

And wait. According to Worldbridge, Spouse visa applications take around ten weeks to process, and I was counting off the weeks until the expected (denied) visa decision to arrive. On 5th July, at the end of my application's 8th week, Justice Blake told the Home Secretary that the minimum income requirement was too high, and we thought that this would actually work in our favour.. We were wrong.

The Home Office appealed, and put all applications that would only fail due to not meeting the income threshold on hold. We were still waiting. In August, my oldest son announced that he and his fiancee were getting married in December. In the Philippines, and he insisted on paying for my ticket to make sure I could go! Decisions, decisions. Wait for the Home Office appeal (possibly 9-12 months) and hope that decision isn't appealed again, or withdraw my application and go to my son's wedding. David and I both said the same thing. I needed my passport back.

I contacted Worldbridge and UKBA to see if my application was likely to be processed anyway during the hold, but no answer. I again contacted Worldbridge asking whether I could withdraw my application without any problems entering the UK afterwards. “Withdrawing your application has no bearing on you being able to enter the UK” They said withdrawing the application would take about 6-10 weeks for my documents to be returned, so I withdrew. I was surprised when my documents were returned two days later. There was no refusal, nor anything to say that I could not enter the UK.

Great I thought, I can go visit David for a month or so, fly from there to the Philippines for the wedding, then fly back to the UK before David and I moved to Ireland to exercise treaty rights. Once more, David and I would be together. The UKBA had other ideas.

I arrived at Gatwick Airport – South Terminal on Tuesday 22nd October, excited because I knew David was going to be waiting for me in the Arrivals Hall after I hadn't seen him for eleven months. I approached passport control and handed my passport over, and the lady asked me how long I was staying. I told her I'd be in the UK six weeks, leaving for the Philippines for a few weeks, then returning for three months before moving to Ireland with my husband. She asked if I had a ticket to the Philippines with me, and I told her that my son was booking it in the next few weeks.

The lady said she needed to talk to her Supervisor to get clarification, and at 10.45am I was placed in a little glass-walled waiting room that is locked from the outside, with everyone going past wondering what you've done to get put into holding. I was sure I had done nothing wrong, but it sure makes you feel guilty when you see people looking at you like you're a criminal..

At 11.15am, a different lady came to get me. Not at all helpful or friendly, but very demanding and intimidating. I was asked if I had any other luggage than my carry-on, and I said yes, I had one suitcase. I was escorted to baggage where I collected my suitcase, then escorted through the airport to a detention centre elsewhere in the terminal.Before being put into a new holding area, I was asked to empty my bags and watched as this lady went through all my stuff and put anything paper in a plastic bag, and my medication in another.. When she was satisfied, I was told to repack my bags (no help offered), I was escorted to a detention area. When I asked what was happening, the lady escorting me said that Immigration were not satisfied with my answers, and that they had more questions for me. Check-in time at the detention area was 11.15am

The staff at the detention centre were nice, and I was the only detainee there at the time. I had not been able to talk to David, and asked the lady detention centre staff if I could make a phone call. She asked if it was a UK number, I said yes, and she allowed me to call David. She also gave me a number that David to call to reach me on.

I finally got called out to have my picture and fingerprints taken, then taken to a very small room that had chains on some of the chairs, where I waited some more. An Immigration Officer arrived with a list of 106 questions already prepared, most of which didn't seem relevant to me visiting my husband in Wales. She asked why I had not moved to the UK in February 2011, and I explained that  it was due to working, money and wanting to ensure that my sons were settled before I left. She seemed to think that ensuring my twenty-two year old son had somewhere to live was a bad thing.

She wanted to know why I'd withdrawn my application for a Spouse visa. When I told her about my son's wedding in the Philippines, she asked if I needed a visa,how long had the y known each other, what date were they getting married, and why did I not have more information. I answered the questions truthfully, and that my ticket had not been booked yet as my son would book them at the same time he booked his own. The only documentation that I had with me that they queried was an email I'd printed off with address details for a BBC Radio Wales interview conducted at a Toronto radio station recently. The Immigration Officer wanted to know what I'd said in the interview, and I said I didn't remember. When the interview was concluded, I was taken back to the detention centre to wait for the decision.

About thirty minutes later, at approximately 2.15pm, David called to say that he'd been informed that I was being denied entry to the UK because they believed I would overstay if allowed entry. Why they'd tell him before me is beyond my comprehension, and it should have been me telling my husband, not the other way around. At 4.30pm, the Immigration Officer returned and told me that they are aware that I have spoken to my husband and that I know I'm being refused entry to the UK with no right of appeal. Shortly after this, I was told that I would be taken to Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre at 5pm.

My bags and I were escorted to a waiting van, where I was told to get inside. The van has windows but no door handle on the inside, and a glass pane between the driver and detainee areas with a small window that they open to talk to you.. After a trip of around five minutes, I was transferred to a different van and we went on our way. When we picked up another detainee around an hour into the journey, we were taken out, searched and made to wait in another holding area. The bathroom facilities had no toilet seat and was a tiny room. Upon leaving this facility, we were again searched, and put back in the van before continuing the journey.

At around 9pm, we arrived at our new location. That's right, four hours from Gatwick to just outside Heathrow, a trip that usually takes around an hour at most,.where we're told to sit and wait. I asked permission to call my husband, which they allowed, and they also gave me a number for him to be able to call me back.. I told him I hoped he at least knew where I was, and to go back home to Wales as I was being put on a flight the next day..

We had a nurse on site who was not happy about my blood pressure being so high (Gee, I wonder why idiot!), so I was taken upstairs by elevator while the other detainees took the stairs. At 11.30pm, I was finally finished processing and as I'd been awake thirty-two hours already and my blood pressure was high, I took a shower and went to bed in my cell. The shower doors barely cover anything and the water kept going off every few minutes, but it was better than nothing. Now to sleep. Yeah, right! I started being sick every fifteen to twenty minutes.

During processing on arrival, you're fingerprinted and photographed again, and have a chance to get clothes and toiletries from your bags, but nothing that could be used as a weapon or has a camera. While in detention center was told could get access to my luggage at anytime if needed things out of it. When I found out I was staying the extra day asked if could get things out of my luggage to send home with David was told yes just gives us a few minutes.  5 hours later when Dave arrived still no luggage kept getting told they are really busy and you have to be patient.  I realize I am not the only person there but seems to me that as Colbrook is a MALE facility with a small are for females, anything the ladies want/need does not happen until after the men have everything they need or want. Only 2% of occupants at this facility are female, and they have over 400 men located at this facility.

At 3am, UKBA called the unit (Sahara Unit was where I was in Colnbrook) and told them to get me ready for transport back to Gatwick. Are they kidding? The guard told them I was sick, but the person they spoke with didn't seem to care, and that I was going to be put on a plane. What's the rush, my flight doesn't leave until 12pm (noon), nine hours away. The guard contacted the duty nurse, who eventually came and declared to whoever they phoned that I was not fit to travel. The nurse was informed that I was to see the doctor first thing in the morning. I was finally allowed to get back to sleep around 4am and slept until 9am.

The Removal Centre has set meals times, and you are required to show up for them regardless. They also do head counts three times a day where you have to be in your cells while they do it, then wait to be released again.

When I woke up, I asked  if I could have my medication (part of the reason I'm sick is because I haven't taken any in nearly forty-four hours by this time). I'm told that I have to wait until I see the doctor (you're still kidding me, right!). I saw the doctor, he said that I had improved and was fit to travel, and I asked about my meds which were sitting on his desk. He said no, I couldn't have them then, but that I'd have them back by noon and that as I seemed to know what to do with them, I could keep them with me from then. Lunchtime is 1pm, and I had half a bowl of soup as I still wasn't feeling good. Meds time is 1,30pm, and I still hadn't received mine from the doctor. I asked again, and my meds finally arrived at 2.30pm.. I still didn't have my antacids or or pain pills, but I was told I could get soluble paracetomol from the nurse.

I got access to a computer, and spent the afternoon emailing hubby with the hope that he could visit.  He arrived with just enough time for us to have a thirty-minute visit in a room with many other people visiting detainees as well. There's not much you can talk about in thirty minutes, and mostly is was me crying and cuddling. Everything you say and do is recorded, your fingerprint scanned on arrival in the room, and you're searched entering and leaving the room as a detainee.

I again went to bed at 11.30pm, to be woken an hour later by a guard as I finally got to sleep. I'm being moved at 1am (Seriously, you need better jokes as these aren't funny). I was allowed to call David (who'd slept in the car nearby overnight) and told him what was happening. I had to rely on him to arrange my transport from the airport in Toronto to home after I landed.When the transport arrived, they told me that my flight wasn't until 11.45am, and to make a complaint as there was no need to have me picked up nearly eleven hours early. I was told to make sure all my bags were there and given £2.00 in case I needed it to make phone calls while I waited for my flight. We arrived back at Gatwick at around 3am, I was searched again and my bags checked, before switching vans again for the trip into the airport.

I was again put into a holding cell, which had the air-conditioning on full and the flourescent lighting (which gives me headaches) on all night. I wasn't allowed to make any phone calls unless I had money (yay, and thanks for the £2.00) but the phone wasn't accepting coins (boooo). At around 9am, I was told that I would be flying out at 11.45am, and I was given a chance to re-sort my bags. I again had to argue my case to be able to take my medications, but I got to take them in the end.

I was escorted to my flight around fifteen minutes before it left, and my passport and paperwork handed to a stewardess who was instructed not to give it to me until we landed in Toronto. They'd never dealt with a Canadian removed from the UK before, so were unsure what they needed to do. I was given a seat at the very back of the plane, and had to walk past everyone else who had already boarded.. The stewardess was told that if we landed at any other airport, the security there were to be given my paperwork and were to escort me. (Excuse me!). The guards escorting me also watched until I was seated then left as the aircraft door closed behind them.

Almost eight hours later, I landed in Toronto (yay!) and was given my paperwork by the stewardess. I arrived at passport control and was told that because I'd been refused entry to the UK, I had to go see the Canadian immigration staff (Enough of the jokes already!). It's bad enough dealing with another country's immigration staff, but your own as well! I explained that I didn't have a lot of time to spare as I had buses to catch, and was told that my immigration status was more important than my bus issue. I walked away, but had to return for my passport, which I hadn't been given back to me. The passport guy was dealing with someone else now, and as I waited, a security guard came up and told me I couldn't wait there. I told her I wasn't leaving without my passport unless the Passport Control officer was taking it to immigration for me. After a few minutes, he said he wasn't taking it to immigration, and gave me back my passport. Before escorting me towards Immigration.

At Canadian Immigration, I spoke with a nice male Immigration Officer who asked why I'd been refused entry. I told him why, and he was shocked. He said that as a Canadian Citizen, I am entitled to enter the UK for up to six months without needing a visa. He released my file and told me I was free to go, but the delay had caused me to miss my bus. I called David to let him know I'd landed ok, then caught the next bus thirty minutes later. This one was late due to traffic, and by the time we reached the coach terminal, I'd just missed the last bus of the day to where I was going to.

I phoned David to let him know what happened, then I managed to get a ticket for the first bus the following morning, and figured I may as well try and get comfortable for the evening. I made one last call to David before he went to bed to let him know I had my bus ticket, and I figured sleeping on the bus terminal seating wouldn't be too bad. (Guess what, the bus terminal closes from 1am til 5.30am. Grrrrr!). The bus terminal security guard found somewhere to store my bags (for a cost), and I went outside to find a bench to sleep on. In the early hours, I found a McDonalds that was opening, and I got myself breakfast before heading back to the bus terminal as it opened. I called David to let him know how the night went, and to admit that I would have agreed to his  idea to spend the night in a local hostel if I'd known the bus terminal closed at night. No-one had told me when I bought my ticket that the terminal closes either, nor are there signs that I saw.

At 9.30am, with my bags returned, I caught my bus, and around three hours later I arrived in the same place I'd left on Monday. As this was a Friday, I've spent most of the last ninety-six hours stuck in buses, aircraft, detention cells and secure transport vans. It's a good job I'm not claustrophobic! My brother picked me up from the bus stop, and we went back to his place where I finally got to sleep for thirteen hours later that evening. I'm still not sleeping or eating properly a week later.

I was made to feel a criminal, that I’d done something wrong, even though the Immigration Officer told me I hadn’t. If I’d done nothing wrong, why was I refused entry to be with my husband?


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