A grandmother who is exiled in Singapore despite having been married to a British man for more than 27 years is about to launch a fresh legal bid to return to the UK.
Irene Clennell, 53, is the main carer for her sick British husband, John, and has two British sons and a British granddaughter. She was deported from the UK last month with about £12 in her pocket and no time to gather her things or say a proper goodbye to her family.
Clennell’s lawyer says a new spousal visa application will be lodged with the Home Office within the next month and that she is “confident” Clennell will return to the UK.
Clennell, who until last month lived in Ouston, County Durham, built a life in Britain over nearly 30 years. She lost her indefinite leave to remain because she spent several long stretches of time in Singapore over those three decades, caring for her dying parents and sorting out a rental property. Her case made headlines around the world after BuzzFeed News told the story of her detention and subsequent deportation.
Clennell previously thought she had 28 days to make an appeal, but her lawyer says she will instead be making an entirely new application for a spousal visa. The application will be lodged with the British High Commission in Singapore. If the Home Office rejects it there will then be an opportunity to appeal.
Hilary Brown, a British lawyer who Clennell has hired since a crowdfunding campaign raised more than £56,000 for her legal fees, told BuzzFeed News she was confident Clennell would be coming home. “I’m not a betting woman but I’m confident that she’ll come back to the UK because if she can’t, what on earth does that say about the UK?”
Brown added: “This is someone with fundamental and extensive family life in the United Kingdom. Her parents are not alive; her husband is alive and a permanent resident in the United Kingdom; her children are alive and permanently resident in the United Kingdom; and her granddaughter is permanently resident in the United Kingdom. What stronger family life can you get?”
In the three weeks since BuzzFeed News was with Clennell in Singapore as she adjusted to her new life there, very little has changed. She is still sleeping on her nephew’s sofa in a crowded flat and suffering from insomnia and stress.
Speaking from Singapore yesterday, Clennell said she was desperate to come back to her family in County Durham. “I haven’t been out, I’ve just been sitting in the house,” she said.
“I’m missing home a lot. I don’t want to do anything here, I just want to go home. My sister asked the other day if I wanted to go to the river and I said, ‘No, I just want to go home.'”
She added: "I’m just worried about John and wondering how he’s coping because I’m not there. He’s not saying anything, maybe because he’s worried I’ll worry. At least my son is there to help at home now but you can’t expect him to do everything like I used to.”
Nazek Ramadan, director of Migrant Voice, a charity that has campaigned for Clennell since she was first in detention, said: “It should have been a simple straightforward process and the Home Office should have assisted Irene with her immigration documents while in the UK. The way she was treated, separated from her family and ill husband, detained, and deported like a criminal, shows a system which is impractical, overcomplicated, and lacks compassion."
Ramadan added: “We need an immigration system which respects and values the family. We hope that Irene will be back where she belongs; with her family.”
The Home Office rarely comments on individual cases. A 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.”
Emily Dugan is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Emily Dugan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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