My name is Giuseppe Pichierri, I am a doctor and a microbiologist and I work for Kingston Hospital in London.
I have been here since 2007, I came to do an MSc in Tropical Medicine. I have worked for a number of different countries and then I went to work in Italy about six years ago.
Now I have been back to the UK for more than five years.
My wife is British. She works in the NHS as well, she is a nurse for University College London Hospitals.
We had our first daughter in Italy and then my wife wanted to come back here. We came back in March 2016, right before the EU referendum. It wasn’t a great decision. I wasn’t able to vote in the referendum. I only finally received Settled Status this year despite being here for 15 years.
My oldest daughter doesn’t have citizenship just because she wasn’t born here and my wife hasn’t been born here. My mother-in-law is Jamaican. She ended up having to reapply for British citizenship because the citizenship law changed and she ended up having to confirm her status.
This made me anxious when Brexit happened. My whole family decided to explore other citizenship after the vote. I think we realised that relying on just the British passport made us nervous.
At the end of last year we asked our cousin, Marta, to come stay with us, as she was about to finish university. Having worked as a microbiologist, it was a very difficult year for us, and we also had our third daughter.
The second wave happened and Marta couldn’t come anymore because we were worried about the Covid restrictions.
We tried to inquire through our local MP whether she could come as to work as an au pair, which should have classed as skilled work and they told us it should be fine. It wasn’t.
I wrote a letter saying she would come live with us, precisely to prevent her to be stopped. My main worry was Covid, not Brexit, but unfortunately as it turned out, Covid wasn’t a problem, but Brexit regulations are.
We all needed a little bit of time together, but no one has given us any call and the next call I receive is from Marta at Colnbrook (Immigration Removal Centre).
She arrived at Heathrow on 17 April. We were outside waiting for her and after a couple of hours she told us they were going to interrogate her.
She then sent me another message to say she was going to have a discussion with immigration officers. And then I didn’t hear anything anymore until about midnight.
She finally called me to say she was going to be taken into a detention centre at which point I felt shocked as she is family to us, who are living in the UK.
We were constantly awake, trying to see if we could talk to her. All her possessions were taken away. She was provided another mobile phone. I had a number of conversations with her family because they couldn’t understand what was happening. In the morning after I managed to sleep for one hour, I managed to get through to her through the number she was given.
I tried to understand the place she was at. The following day I went to work. When I finished work, just around lunch time, I called to see if I could visit her, and I went inside. I saw her effectively in a prison.
I felt terrible because I thought it was all our fault and I couldn’t believe any of this was necessary. I thought it was a pure misunderstanding that could have been solved with a phone call.
We just wanted her being with us. She was in a state when I went to see her, we couldn’t touch, we couldn’t hug, but I think even without Covid it would have been pretty much the same.
She was in tears. She couldn’t sleep at all. She was taken her luggage and phone from her, I think she was eventually given her belongings upon being deported, when she was about to board her flight.
In the prison, there were other EU citizens, but because Marta doesn’t speak English she could only speak to another Italian.
She didn’t break any laws. What happened put us off from her coming back again, I think we don’t even want to stay here anymore. Our daughters are terrorised.
We feel a lot has changed, we had quite a few family and colleagues leaving the UK. There were EU citizens who went back home or moved to other countries. I have seen a lot of this happening, much more than we have seen before.
We don’t know where we are going to go from here.
We started a legal appeal to certify why she needed to be taken into detention given she had family here, why was she denied entry.
It should be certified why after all we have gone through, they send someone back home and deny them the possibility to see their family.
A lot of people are actually wondering if this is a place that actually wants EU citizens.