A 26-year-old man detained by the Home Office without warning has been denied the right to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme – and could be deported to a country where he has no family or friends within days, his girlfriend has alleged.
Joseph “Joey” Bediako, 26, lives in Croydon – and has been in detention since 5 May at the Brook House immigration removal centre near Gatwick Airport. His girlfriend, 22-year-old Londoner Amoura Curry, said Joey is now being threatened with deportation to Ghana, where he was born but does not know anyone or have a home.
Although he holds a Ghanian passport, both of Joey’s parents are Italian nationals – and his father has lived and worked in the UK since 2016. That makes him eligible to apply for the EUSS, as someone who has also allegedly been living in the UK for four years. The scheme would grant him the right to live, work and access public services like the NHS after Brexit.
Curry said that Joey had received a letter telling him to apply to the EUSS – but was detained only a week later. And, she claimed, Joey has been refused his right to apply to the scheme whilst in detention – despite the fact that the Home Office “have copies of his parents’ passports and his dad’s right to work in the UK”.
A Home Office spokesperson told TLE they have not received proof of Joey’s parents’ nationality, but said they have been liaising with Joey’s legal representatives.
Joey could face deportation as soon as Wednesday. “I have no idea what he will do if he is sent to Ghana,” Curry said.
She told The London Economic: “There is nobody there. He spent a lot of his childhood with his grandparents but they are not alive anymore. He has no friends in Ghana, no extended family. I don’t know how he would get a job, he doesn’t have a home there.”
She added: “The Home Office wouldn’t even let him get vaccinations so he could get malaria, meningitis, hepatitis whilst being homeless. They could actually kill him.”
Curry wants to go after him if he gets deported, but would struggle to reach Ghana safely. “He shouldn’t have to leave because he has the right to be here,” she said. “There has been a lot of anxiety, which is not normal. I kind of wanted to get on the flight with him and go but I have an autoimmune disease which affects my kidneys so if I became unwell there, what do I do?”
With less than a month until the deadline to apply for the right to remain in the UK passes on 30 June, Curry is using the hashtag #FREEINGJOEY to fight for her boyfriend’s release.
She said Joey has been feeling suicidal – and has complained of guards “taunting him” in his cell in the middle of the night. The Home Office told TLE the “dignity and welfare” of detained individuals are of the “utmost importance”.
But Curry said the Home Office “have no idea what they have done to Joey”.
“The Joey I go and visit is a different person every time,” she said. “Nobody should have to experience this. I am just meant to carry on as well. Why should we be subject to that from my own government?”
“They have stolen his will to live and that’s unforgivable and depending on what happens on Wednesday, they may do him even more harm. Some days we just sit in silence because he is depressed. He doesn’t think there will be justice for him. He has been really low,” she added.
“When I spoke to him yesterday, he woke up late so they just skipped his meal. He was speaking to me in a tone like he was not there. Joey is the kind of person who laughs through everything.”
Labour’s Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary, urged ministers to “urgently look into this case”. He told the i newspaper: “These are extremely worrying reports. The Government has promised that those seeking European settled status would be given support – and this must be delivered.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The public rightly expects us to remove those who have no right to be in the UK. We expect people to leave the country voluntarily but, where they do not, Immigration Enforcement will seek to enforce their departure.
“We take our responsibilities towards detained individuals’ health and welfare very seriously. The provision of 24-hour, seven-days-a-week healthcare in all IRCs ensures that detained individuals have ready access to medical professionals and levels of primary care in line with individuals in the community.
“The Home Office has not received an application from Mr Bediako to the EU Settlement Scheme.”