Deported Singaporean woman vows to fight on in bid to return to Britain

SINGAPORE - The fight to return to her family's side is not yet over for Singaporean Irene Clennell, despite her deportation from Britain on Sunday (Feb 27).

The 52-year-old grandmother, who has a husband and two sons in Britain, arrived back in Singapore at around 3pm on Monday after she was suddenly removed from Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre in Scotland, where she was held since Jan 20.

Even though she now faces a 10-year travel ban back to Britain, Mrs Clennell said she will continue to appeal the decision and reach out to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for help.

The ECJ, which is the highest court in the European Union (EU), had previously ruled in favour of the free movement of non-EU family members.

Read also: Singaporean granny deported from UK with only $20 on her

Speaking to the Straits Times at Changi Airport, she accused the UK authorities of denying her due process.

Mrs Clennell said she was under the impression that her case was still being looked at by her legal representatives and the day for her to leave would not be soon.

Said Mrs Clennell: "They brought me to a room surrounded by officers from Dungavel and the UK Home Office. There were around 12 other detainees, and they told us to call our solicitors, if we had any.

"But it was a Sunday, and I only had my lawyer's office number."

Her belongings are still in her UK home and she only carried £25 (S$43.60), which are her earnings from working at the detention centre's laundromat, she told ST.

Under flight escort by four officers with the British authorities, she was sent on a long flight back to Singapore, with a stopover in Doha, Qatar. Two of her three sisters, Lily and Juspin Anthony, met her at the arrival gate.

Said Ms Lily Anthony, 54, a financial accountant: "It was so sudden. None of us had any idea it was going to happen."

Read also: Singaporean married to Briton faces deportation although she has lived in UK for 27 years

Mrs Irene Clennell with her sisters, Lily Anthony (middle) and Juspin Anthony (left) at Changi Airport.Photo: The Straits Times

Her case is a longstanding one spanning more than two decades.

She was first granted an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) - which is typically given to foreign spouses of British citizens - when she married Mr John Clennell in 1990, after they met in a London pub. An ILR allows a person to stay in Britain without time restrictions.

In 1992, she moved back to Singapore with her husband. She stayed here as her mother was sick. When her mother died in 1999, she found that her ILR had lapsed as a clause in it says she cannot live outside Britain for more than two years. Her husband and their sons returned to Britain in 1998.

Her numerous applications for another ILR have been rejected.

Her case has caught the attention of the British press and pro-migrant advocacy groups in the past month. British MPs also weighed in on her plight, calling for the authorities to reconsider her deportation.

"Britain is her home, and there can be no justification for forcing her to leave," Mrs Clennell's MP, Mr Kevan Jones told BuzzFeed UK.

A Home Office spokesman 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."

This article was first published on February 28, 2016.
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