A 52-year-old Singaporean grandmother has been deported to Singapore with just £12 (S$20) in her pocket, after fighting for her right to stay with her family in Britain for more than 20 years.
Irene Clennell, who is married to a British man and has two sons and a grand-daughter all born in the UK, was forced to go back to her native Singapore on Sunday (26 Feb) night.
Mrs Clennell was held in Dungavel immigration detention centre in Scotland after a routine appointment at an immigration reporting centre in Middlesbrough since 20 January.
Irene had arrived in the UK in 1988 and after she married John Clennel, a British citizen, was given indefinite leave to remain.
But her residential status appears to have been invalidated by periods spent back in Singapore to care for her elderly parents. Subsequent attempts to apply for a more permanent visa had been failed and a visitors’ visa has expired three years ago.
Mrs Clennell spoke to Buzzfeed News while on the plane at Edinburgh airport waiting to take-off yesterday. She was in tears and said she didn’t get time to say goodbye to her family.
She said: “They just came to get me this morning and said they’ve already given me a chance. Now I’m on the plane. Four people are taking me to Singapore.”
“I don’t know what I’ll do when I land. I called my sister (in Singapore) and she said she can’t put me up, so I just don’t know.”
Her sister started a Gofundme page titled ‘Bring Irene Home’ to raise funds for her legal fees and raised £26,920 of the £20k goal for a legal challenge.
The Huffington Post reported that her husband, John, suspected she was deported out-of-hours on Sunday to prevent a legal challenge. He said, “She’s got nothing with her; all her clothes are here. What’s she supposed to do with £12? She’s got no clothes, no fresh underwear and nowhere to go.”
A UK Home Office spokesman only said, “All applications for leave to remain in the UK are considered on their individual merits and in line with the immigration rules. We expect those with no legal right to remain in the country to leave.”
The BBC said, her plight has been highlighted by British non-governmental organisation Migrant Voices, and a campaign is being started to bring her back to Britain.
Mrs Clennel does not have a place to stay in Singapore, she already sold her four-room flat in Yishun in 2008, and her only family in the country is her sister who is working in India.
She said to Buzzfeed News, “How can I stay anywhere? I don’t have a wallet with me, I’ve got about £12 (S$20) in my pocket. I don’t even have my clothes, they’re at home.”
“I just have what they took from the detention centre,” she said.