A woman from Valencia who arrived in London on Monday has told of her “terror” after UK border agents forced her into a detention centre.
María*, 25, came back to the UK to live for a while and work, as she did back in 2019.
Upon arrival at Gatwick Airport, she explained her intentions to UK border agents, who had asked her for her reasons to enter the country, on top of her passport and negative Covid test. She also told them she has relatives in the UK.
She has a National Insurance Number, having worked in London before. But she didn’t have her EU Settled Status accepted, which EU citizens can apply for before 30 June to be able to permanently live in the UK post-Brexit.
Her friend, Oriol Arnedo, said: “After a period in Spain, she decided to come back to the UK to search for new opportunities.
“Because she didn’t have the EU settled status sorted out properly, the UK border force informed her that her UK entry was illegal and that she would be detained until her case will be resolved.”
Arnedo said the UK authorities took her to a room with eight other passengers in the same situation and took their mobile phones to prevent them from making phone calls.
He added they informed her she would be sent to a detention centre, but did not specify which one.
Una amiga de Valencia ayer llegó a Londres para vivir una temporada en Reino Unido. Hoy está detenida en el Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, un Centro de Internamiento de Extranjeros en Bedfordshire. Las consecuencias del Brexit, amigos. Dentro hilo contando su caso:??? pic.twitter.com/xtLQkerCMy— Oriol Arnedo (@oriolarnedo) May 4, 2021
Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre
María suggested buying the first flight back to Spain so that she can leave and not be taken to a detention centre.
But Arnedo said the agents refused her offer: “They explained this was not possible and that, in case of deportation, they would be the ones in charge of organising it.
“They provided the phone number of her room from Gatwick to a relative. But when they called, a man from the Canary Islands, who was also detained despite having a job interview the next day, said that María and other girls were there until 2am, but they took them away. However, he didn’t know where.
“After calling other centres, María was found in the Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre, outside of Beford. She is there now, hoping for an interview with the Home Office within three days.
“She has the right to a lawyer, and in case of deportation, they will fix a date for the next few days. As far as they say, it’s a detention centre where men and women eat in shifts and they have a garden to walk in.”
He added: “This is a horror story caused by Brexit. Down with borders and immigration laws.”
What does the Home Office say?
The London Economic has asked the Home Office for comment regarding whether the woman has been sent home meanwhile.
The Home Office replied saying they “do not routinely comment on individual cases”, but are urgently looking into this case.
TLE has also asked how many EU citizens are in the same situation – of being denied entry to the UK and held in immigration detention centres.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “EU citizens are our friends and neighbours and we want them to remain, which is why they have until 30 June to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme if they were resident in the UK before 31 December 2020.
“For those who were not resident before this date, as the public expects, we require evidence of an individual’s right to live and work in the UK.”
*Not her real name