Singaporean wife of British man fighting deportation from Britain

Mrs Clennell / photo:

Irene Clennell (53), a Singaporean who has two British sons, is being held in an immigration detention centre in Scotland to be flown back to Singapore.

Mrs Clennell, who lives in County Durham, has been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK following her marriage, but after making visits to see her aged parents in Singapore her status has been cancelled. In distress, she has made efforts to re-apply for permission to live in the UK for years.

She was detained on 20 January after a routine appointment at an immigration reporting centre in Middlesbrough and sent to the Dungavel House in Lanarkshire two weeks ago.

Dungavel House Removal Center / photo: BBC
Dungavel House Removal Center / photo: BBC

Her plight was highlighted by British non-governmental organisation Migrant Voices, and reported by many news outlets, including the BBC.

“The kids are born here. My husband is from the country. So I don’t see what is the issue. But they keep rejecting all the applications.” She said to the BBC.

Mrs Clennell did not claim state benefits and was not allowed to work, she is supported by her husband, John (50), who is a gas engineer but is in poor health.

John and Irene Clennells / photo: North News & Pictures Ltd
John and Irene Clennells / photo: North News & Pictures Ltd

The Metro UK reported that her husband has had an arterial bypass and she is her husband main carer.

“And my husband is not getting any better. I want to be with my family,” Mrs Clennell said.

John said after his wife was detained his mother has had to help him. “I think she should be allowed to stay. She’s part of a married family,” he said.

The couple has two adult sons, aged 27 and 25, and a granddaughter, who is less than a year old.

She was first granted the ILR, which is typically given to foreign spouses of British citizens, when she married Mr John Clennell in 1990. An ILR allows a person to stay in Britain without time restrictions.

But in 1992, the Clennells came to Singapore for several periods in that times as both her parents were diagnosed with cancer. Her ILR lapsed due to a clause that said she could not live outside Britain for more than two years.

Mr Clennell and their two sons returned to Britain in 1998, but she remained in Singapore until 1999.

Since then, her applications for another ILR have been rejected multiple times. The applications cost about £500 each time. Said Mrs Clennell: “My mother in Singapore was sick at the time, so I had no choice but to (remain) with her. She passed away in 1999.”

“I understand not everyone can come into the UK and stay, but surely I should be treated differently. I hope common sense will win, but I’m frightened,” she said.

The couple had lived apart for years until she was finally able to re-enter Britain in 2013, on the basis of making another application within the country. She stayed on even though her subsequent applications failed.

Director of Migrant Voice Nazek Ramadan told the news site: ‘Irene Clennell’s case is like many others we’ve worked with. It’s yet another example of how arbitrary policies tear apart families and ruin lives.

‘These kind of bureaucratic decisions are a direct result of a relentless drive towards unrealistic migration caps that don’t take real lives into account.’

The Metro UK wrote that the Home Office, which is responsible for immigration, said all applications are considered on their individual merits, but they are unable to comment on individual cases.

The Clennells have negated the suggestion for the family move to Singapore. Mrs Clennell, who sold her four-room flat in Yishun in 2008, said: “We don’t have much savings left to start another life. It will be hard to afford a home, John’s medical fees or find a job.”

“I have got no family in Singapore and I have no property in Singapore. My parents are dead. My only family is a sister, and she is working in India. My husband is British. I do not see why I cannot stay.”

Her husband’s sister has started a Gofundme page titled ‘Bring Irene Home’ to raise funds for her legal fees.

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