I first came to the UK when I was 6 years old with my mum to join my grandparents and uncles who had already been living here for years, working and minding their own business. As EU nationals we never had to register or do anything to enter or leave, they never knew anything about immigration law or making applications, because of this I never applied to become a British citizen even though I have lived in the UK far longer than the necessary criteria.
My first interaction with the Home office was when I was in young offenders, before that I had no idea about deportation. My Family had been here for over 20 years and when they gave me paperwork informing me that they intended to deport me I thought It must be a mistake. As I read on I realised that they were claiming they did not have evidence of how long I had lived in the UK, so I began to gather evidence to prove that I had been living in the UK, a hard task for anyone but even more so for someone who only has 30 minutes a day to use a phone due to over 400 prisoners all trying to access only 8 phones on the wing on a very restrictive regime which would only allow 1 hour out of cell per day at most.
With some help from friends and family, I managed to get documents from schools I attended, pay slips from previous jobs and witness statements confirming I had been in the UK. I rushed to send this back within 14 days, hoping that this mistake would be sorted and that they would respond within 14 days as they had demanded of me. Unfortunately, this was not to be.
Almost my whole sentence passed before I got a response from the Home Office informing me they still intended to deport me because I had been sentenced to 6 months for young offenders. My whole world turned upside down from this point and I had no idea what to do. I tried to get a lawyer but everyone I called would refuse to even listen to my case unless I first sent them a payment of £1500 some even asked for over £2000. I knew I had no hope of getting representation, so even though I had no legal knowledge, I had no choice but to represent myself.
After I had sent the paperwork for my appeal I just waited, It was only 2 days before my release date that I received paperwork informing me that they intended to keep me prisoner under immigration powers after my sentence. This news destroyed me not only because I would stay in prison without any idea of a release date but also because I would have to tell my family who had been waiting for my release date for months.
Contrary to popular belief the Home Office does, on occasion, keep to their word. Unfortunately, as I come to learn, this is only when engaging in harmful actions. My release date came and went and I was kept in prison. I had no idea what to do, until someone told me about BID. At my earliest opportunity, I called them off the prison phone and they understood my situation right away. They didn’t ask for money, judge me or make it complicated for me in any way.
They taught me about applying for bail and even sent me information packs on how to make my application and even information on how to prepare to appeal my whole deportation case. I prepared my bail application and got ready to go to see a judge and ask to be released. Unfortunately, even though BID’s help was very good when I got in front of the judge the Home office just lied and said that they would remove me in 2 days to prevent the judge from releasing me.
11 months later I was still in prison, and became very depressed and detached from everything. I stopped calling family and friends because I was tired of disappointing them when they asked when I would be coming out. Immigration officers would come to see me monthly and threaten that if I didn’t sign to go back voluntarily I would just stay in prison. They moved me from one prison to another bigger more volatile prison, in the hope that a different more violent atmosphere would make me sign and give up. What they didn’t know is that I was already at rock bottom and the only thing I had left to hold on to was the hope of one day being reunited with my family. There was no way I would give that up.
It was almost a year later that I decided to call BID again and ask that they help me apply for bail again they told me they would help and that I should keep calling them every day for updates but the prison was put in a long lockdown so I wasn’t able to go and make phone calls so I had no way of getting updates.
Around a week later as I was awake at 6 am after another sleepless night, a prison officer opened my door and announced I was going to court. I had no idea and because of security reasons, they wouldn’t let me make a phone call to BID or my family. I felt so desperate because I thought my family wouldn’t be there to confirm my address and deposit for bail. I thought I would just get refused again because nothing was ready.
As I walked into the court I was surprised to see my mum and grandparents, I was even more surprised when the judge granted me bail. It felt like a dream that I would wake up from in my cell, I was so confused until I walked out of the court to my family. After we embraced my Mum told me that BID had prepared my whole application and informed her to attend the hearing.
I couldn’t contain myself. Even though they took away all my rights, so that I couldn’t work, study or even volunteer, I was so happy to not be in prison and to be reunited with my family. But I still knew I had to appeal the deportation order. For the next few months, I read all I could to prepare to represent myself but It was a lot. I felt beyond my depth, but I had no choice the lawyers were too expensive.
Finally, when the day of my appeal came I attended court with my family as witnesses and did my best to make my case why I should be allowed to remain. I left the court worried and not knowing the outcome as it would be sent by post. After waiting a month, I got the decision from the judge not only allowing my appeal but also making remarks that I did not even meet the minimum criteria for deportation in the first place.
Since then I have kept in contact with BID and they still help me in many ways such as sharing my story and giving me training to boost my legal knowledge and employability.
Me and my Family will always be thankful to everyone at BID.
Please note a pseudonym has been used.