I was taken to detention without warning last year and without a chance to collect my belongings for an unknown length of time. It was hard to imagine what would come next. Little did I know, I would be part of a growing number of people facing deportation.
A year ago, I was loaded into a van surrounded by immigration removal officers and taken to Heathrow Airport . I was scared and didn't know what was going on. What I did know is that I would not get the chance to see my friends again or have any of my belongings with me.
I wasn't even given the courtesy of holding my mother's hand throughout this horrid experience as she was in another van headed for Heathrow as well. I was lucky to be able to get word to my friends who got stuck in when I needed them most. They managed to get in touch with my local MP, Ruth Smeeth, and she did everything she could to ensure that I would not be deported on that day.
But that wasn't the only time the UK Home Office tried to deport me. Weeks later, I faced a similar situation. This time, it was thanks to last-minute intervention from our immigration lawyer that I was allowed to remain in the UK. And since then, I've been granted leave to remain by the Home Office.
I am so pleased that my story was heard (and the shouts of so many others, too) but what about all the other people who don't have an army to make noise when they can't?
The reality is, there are thousands others like me. Figures obtained by The Independent show that more than half of the removal directions issued by the Home Office last year were cancelled. And nearly half of those were called off within one day of the scheduled deportation.
This traumatising experience of "removal" is overcome by so many people who should not have had to even go through such an ordeal to begin with. Yet many have regardless, and many will not get the appropriate help post reprieve to recover due to ever mounting stress and fear.
Although I can now look back with a huge sigh of relief, it's still not easy to fully recount the experience without wondering "why me?" and, "who else out there is being put through this? Who speaks up and out for them?"
It's still unclear to me why the Home Office does not seem to care for people who've created lives for themselves in this country and are still forcefully rejected from society – in most cases through mass deportations – just so they can meet set targets to get rid of as many people as possible.
During continued conversations with former detainees, my understanding is that despite being released from detention, their fears of going back are prevalent, especially when that involves having to go to a reporting centre, which for most is a fortnightly and daunting experience.
It's a procedure that involves going through metal detectors and being patted down by an official – the bold lettering on the paperwork from the Home Office one has to provide serving as a constant reminder that "you are liable to detention". What better way is there to ensure people feel devalued?
It is often at these points that people will be taken to detention centres where the aim is to deport them without question or a chance to fully fight for themselves with the aid of a prepared legal team. With mounting cases like this, people from migrant backgrounds grow increasingly fearsome of the gruesome treatment that either friends and family have had to go through, knowing that whatever they do or say will either be rejected or refused by the Home Office as a direct result of hostility.
My case shows that the Home Office doesn't always get it right. Without amazing friends, an MP who cared about her constituent and an immigration lawyer who offered services on legal aid, I would have been wrongly deported.
A change must come, more legal advice needs to be made available to people in immigration removal centres and the government needs to stop the inhumane and prejudiced "detain first, ask questions later" approach. Not just inside, but outside of detention centres too, so we can avoid processes like this once and for all.
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I was nearly deported under the Home Office’s 'deport first, ask questions later' approach. This is why it’s so terrifying have 1034 words, post on www.independent.co.uk at March 27, 2019. This is cached page on Europe Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.